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Title: Christopher Columbus and the New World of His Discovery — Complete
Author: Young, Filson
Language: English
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                         CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS


                      A NARRATIVE BY FILSON YOUNG

                        K.C.V.O., D.C.L., F.R.S.


Often while I have been studying the records of colonisation in the New
World I have thought of you and your difficult work in Ireland; and I
have said to myself, “What a time he would have had if he had been
Viceroy of the Indies in 1493!”  There, if ever, was the chance for a
Department such as yours; and there, if anywhere, was the place for the
Economic Man.  Alas! there war only one of him; William Ires or Eyre, by
name, from the county Galway; and though he fertilised the soil he did it
with his blood and bones.  A wonderful chance; and yet you see what came
of it all.  It would perhaps be stretching truth too far to say that you
are trying to undo some of Columbus’s work, and to stop up the hole he
made in Ireland when he found a channel into which so much of what was
best in the Old Country war destined to flow; for you and he have each
your places in the great circle of Time and Compensation, and though you
may seem to oppose one another across the centuries you are really
answering the same call and working in the same vineyard.  For we all set
out to discover new worlds; and they are wise who realise early that
human nature has roots that spread beneath the ocean bed, that neither
latitude nor longitude nor time itself can change it to anything richer
or stranger than what it is, and that furrows ploughed in it are furrows
ploughed in the sea sand.  Columbus tried to pour the wine of
civilisation into very old bottles; you, more wisely, are trying to pour
the old wine of our country into new bottles.  Yet there is no great
unlikeness between the two tasks: it is all a matter of bottling; the
vintage is the same, infinite, inexhaustible, and as punctual as the sun
and the seasons.  It was Columbus’s weakness as an administrator that he
thought the bottle was everything; it is your strength that you care for
the vintage, and labour to preserve its flavour and soft fire.

                                             FILSON YOUNG.
RUAN MINOR, September 1906.


The writing of historical biography is properly a work of partnership, to
which public credit is awarded too often in an inverse proportion to the
labours expended.  One group of historians, labouring in the obscurest
depths, dig and prepare the ground, searching and sifting the documentary
soil with infinite labour and over an area immensely wide.  They are
followed by those scholars and specialists in history who give their
lives to the study of a single period, and who sow literature in the
all comes the essayist, or writer pure and simple, who reaps the harvest
so laboriously prepared.  The material lies all before him; the documents
have been arranged, the immense contemporary fields of record and
knowledge examined and searched for stray seeds of significance that may
have blown over into them; the perspective is cleared for him, the
relation of his facts to time and space and the march of human
civilisation duly established; he has nothing to do but reap the field of
harvest where it suits him, grind it in the wheels of whatever machinery
his art is equipped with, and come before the public with the finished
product.  And invariably in this unequal partnership he reaps most richly
who reaps latest.

I am far from putting this narrative forward as the fine and ultimate
product of all the immense labour and research of the historians of
Columbus; but I am anxious to excuse myself for my apparent presumption
in venturing into a field which might more properly be occupied by the
expert historian.  It would appear that the double work of acquiring the
facts of a piece of human history and of presenting them through the
medium of literature can hardly ever be performed by one and the same
man.  A lifetime must be devoted to the one, a year or two may suffice
for the other; and an entirely different set of qualities must be
employed in the two tasks.  I cannot make it too clear that I make no
claim to have added one iota of information or one fragment of original
research to the expert knowledge regarding the life of Christopher
Columbus; and when I add that the chief collection of facts and documents
relating to the subject, the ‘Raccolta Columbiana,’--[Raccolta di
Documenti e Studi Publicati dalla R. Commissione Colombiana, &c.  Auspice
il Ministero della Publica Istruzione.  Rome, 1892-4.]--is a work
consisting of more than thirty folio volumes, the general reader will be
the more indulgent to me.  But when a purely human interest led me some
time ago to look into the literature of Columbus, I was amazed to find
what seemed to me a striking disproportion between the extent of the
modern historians’ work on that subject and the knowledge or interest in
it displayed by what we call the general reading public.  I am surprised
to find how many well-informed people there are whose knowledge of
Columbus is comprised within two beliefs, one of them erroneous and the
other doubtful: that he discovered America, and performed a trick with
an egg.  Americans, I think, are a little better informed on the subject
than the English; perhaps because the greater part of modern critical
research on the subject of Columbus has been the work of Americans.
It is to bridge the immense gap existing between the labours of the
historians and the indifference of the modern reader, between the
Raccolta Columbiana, in fact, and the story of the egg, that I have
written my narrative.

It is customary and proper to preface a work which is based entirely on
the labours of other people with an acknowledgment of the sources whence
it is drawn; and yet in the case of Columbus I do not know where to
begin.  In one way I am indebted to every serious writer who has even
remotely concerned himself with the subject, from Columbus himself and
Las Casas down to the editors of the Raccolta.  The chain of historians
has been so unbroken, the apostolic succession, so to speak, has passed
with its heritage so intact from generation to generation, that the
latest historian enshrines in his work the labours of all the rest.
Yet there are necessarily some men whose work stands out as being more
immediately seizable than that of others; in the period of whose care the
lamp of inspiration has seemed to burn more brightly.  In a matter of
this kind I cannot pretend to be a judge, but only to state my own
experience and indebtedness; and in my work I have been chiefly helped by
Las Casas, indirectly of course by Ferdinand Columbus, Herrera, Oviedo,
Bernaldez, Navarrete, Asensio, Mr. Payne, Mr. Harrisse, Mr. Vignaud,
Mr. Winsor, Mr. Thacher, Sir Clements Markham, Professor de Lollis,
and S. Salvagnini.  It is thus not among the dusty archives of Seville,
Genoa, or San Domingo that I have searched, but in the archive formed by
the writings of modern workers.  To have myself gone back to original
sources, even if I had been competent to do so, would have been in the
case of Columbian research but a waste of time and a doing over again
what has been done already with patience, diligence, and knowledge.  The
historians have been committed to the austere task of finding out and
examining every fact and document in connection with their subject; and
many of these facts and documents are entirely without human interest
except in so far as they help to establish a date, a name, or a sum of
money.  It has been my agreeable and lighter task to test and assay the
masses of bed-rock fact thus excavated by the historians for traces of
the particular ore which I have been seeking.  In fact I have tried to
discover, from a reverent examination of all these monographs, essays,
histories, memoirs, and controversies concerning what Christopher
Columbus did, what Christopher Columbus was; believing as I do that any
labour by which he can be made to live again, and from the dust of more
than four hundred years be brought visibly to the mind’s eye, will not be
entirely without use and interest.  Whether I have succeeded in doing so
or not I cannot be the judge; I can only say that the labour of
resuscitating a man so long buried beneath mountains of untruth and
controversy has some times been so formidable as to have seemed hopeless.
And yet one is always tempted back by the knowledge that Christopher
Columbus is not only a name, but that the human being whom we so describe
did actually once live and walk in the world; did actually sail and look
upon seas where we may also sail and look; did stir with his feet the
indestructible dust of this old Earth, and centre in himself, as we all
do, the whole interest and meaning of the Universe.  Truly the most
commonplace fact, yet none the less amazing; and often when in the dust
of documents he has seemed most dead and unreal to me I have found
courage from the entertainment of some deep or absurd reflection; such as
that he did once undoubtedly, like other mortals, blink and cough and
blow his nose.  And if my readers could realise that fact throughout
every page of this book, I should say that I had succeeded in my task.

To be more particular in my acknowledgments.  In common with every modern
writer on Columbus--and modern research on the history of Columbus is
only thirty years old--I owe to the labours of Mr. Henry Harrisse, the
chief of modern Columbian historians, the indebtedness of the gold-miner
to the gold-mine.  In the matters of the Toscanelli correspondence and
the early years of Columbus I have followed more closely Mr. Henry
Vignaud, whose work may be regarded as a continuation and reexamination
--in some cases destructive--of that of Mr. Harrisse.  Mr. Vignaud’s work
is happily not yet completed; we all look forward eagerly to the
completion of that part of his ‘Etudes Critiques’ dealing with the second
half of the Admiral’s life; and Mr. Vignaud seems to me to stand higher
than all modern workers in this field in the patient and fearless
discovery of the truth regarding certain very controversial matters,
and also in ability to give a sound and reasonable interpretation to
those obscurer facts or deductions in Columbus’s life that seem doomed
never to be settled by the aid of documents alone.  It may be unseemly in
me not to acknowledge indebtedness to Washington Irving,  but I cannot
conscientiously do so.  If I had been writing ten or fifteen years ago I
might have taken his work seriously; but it is impossible that anything
so one-sided, so inaccurate, so untrue to life, and so profoundly dull
could continue to exist save in the absence of any critical knowledge or
light on the subject.  All that can be said for him is that he kept the
lamp of interest in Columbus alive for English readers during the period
that preceded the advent of modern critical research.  Mr. Major’s
edition’ of Columbus’s letters has been freely consulted by me, as it
must be by any one interested in the subject.  Professor Justin Winsor’s
work has provided an invaluable store of ripe scholarship in matters of
cosmography and geographical detail; Sir Clements Markham’s book, by far
the most trustworthy of modern English works on the subject, and a
valuable record of the established facts in Columbus’s life, has proved a
sound guide in nautical matters; while the monograph of Mr. Elton, which
apparently did not promise much at first, since the author has followed
some untrustworthy leaders as regards his facts, proved to be full of a
fragrant charm produced by the writer’s knowledge of and interest in
sub-tropical vegetation; and it is delightfully filled with the names of
gums and spices.  To Mr. Vignaud I owe special thanks, not only for the
benefits of his research and of his admirable works on Columbus, but also
for personal help and encouragement.  Equally cordial thanks are due to
Mr. John Boyd Thacher,  whose work, giving as it does so large a
selection of the Columbus documents both in facsimile, transliteration,
and translation, is of the greatest service to every English writer on
the subject of Columbus.  It is the more to be regretted, since the
documentary part of Mr. Thacher’s work is so excellent, that in his
critical studies he should have seemed to ignore some of the more
important results of modern research.  I am further particularly indebted
to Mr. Thacher and to his publishers, Messrs.  Putnam’s Sons, for
permission to reproduce certain illustrations in his work, and to avail
myself also of his copies and translations of original Spanish and
Italian documents.  I have to thank Commendatore Guido Biagi, the keeper
of the Laurentian Library in Florence, for his very kind help and letters
of introduction to Italian librarians; Mr. Raymond Beazley, of Merton
College, Oxford, for his most helpful correspondence; and Lord Dunraven
for so kindly bringing, in the interests of my readers, his practical
knowledge of navigation and seamanship to bear on the first voyage of
Columbus.  Finally my work has been helped and made possible by many
intimate and personal kindnesses which, although they are not specified,
are not the less deeply acknowledged.

September 1906.
































VII       THE THIRD VOYAGE (continued)












                          THY WAY IS THE SEA,
                   AND THY PATH IN THE GREAT WATERS,
                    AND THY FOOTSTEPS ARE NOT KNOWN.





A man standing on the sea-shore is perhaps as ancient and as primitive a
symbol of wonder as the mind can conceive.  Beneath his feet are the
stones and grasses of an element that is his own, natural to him, in some
degree belonging to him, at any rate accepted by him.  He has place and
condition there.  Above him arches a world of immense void, fleecy
sailing clouds, infinite clear blueness, shapes that change and dissolve;
his day comes out of it, his source of light and warmth marches across
it, night falls from it; showers and dews also, and the quiet influence
of stars.  Strange that impalpable element must be, and for ever
unattainable by him; yet with its gifts of sun and shower, its furniture
of winged life that inhabits also on the friendly soil, it has links and
partnerships with life as he knows it and is a complement of earthly
conditions.  But at his feet there lies the fringe of another element,
another condition, of a vaster and more simple unity than earth or air,
which the primitive man of our picture knows to be not his at all.  It is
fluent and unstable, yet to be touched and felt; it rises and falls,
moves and frets about his very feet, as though it had a life and entity
of its own, and was engaged upon some mysterious business.  Unlike the
silent earth and the dreaming clouds it has a voice that fills his world
and, now low, now loud, echoes throughout his waking and sleeping life.
Earth with her sprouting fruits behind and beneath him; sky, and larks
singing, above him; before him, an eternal alien, the sea: he stands
there upon the shore, arrested, wondering.  He lives,--this man of our
figure; he proceeds, as all must proceed, with the task and burden of
life.  One by one its miracles are unfolded to him; miracles of fire and
cold, and pain and pleasure; the seizure of love, the terrible magic of
reproduction, the sad miracle of death.  He fights and lusts and endures;
and, no more troubled by any wonder, sleeps at last.  But throughout the
days of his life, in the very act of his rude existence, this great
tumultuous presence of the sea troubles and overbears him.  Sometimes in
its bellowing rage it terrifies him, sometimes in its tranquillity it
allures him; but whatever he is doing, grubbing for roots, chipping
experimentally with bones and stones, he has an eye upon it; and in his
passage by the shore he pauses, looks, and wonders.  His eye is led from
the crumbling snow at his feet, past the clear green of the shallows,
beyond the furrows of the nearer waves, to the calm blue of the distance;
and in his glance there shines again that wonder, as in his breast stirs
the vague longing and unrest that is the life-force of the world.

What is there beyond?  It is the eternal question asked by the finite of
the infinite, by the mortal of the immortal; answer to it there is none
save in the unending preoccupation of life and labour.  And if this old
question was in truth first asked upon the sea-shore, it was asked most
often and with the most painful wonder upon western shores, whence the
journeying sun was seen to go down and quench himself in the sea.  The
generations that followed our primitive man grew fast in knowledge, and
perhaps for a time wondered the less as they knew the more; but we may be
sure they never ceased to wonder at what might lie beyond the sea.  How
much more must they have wondered if they looked west upon the waters,
and saw the sun of each succeeding day sink upon a couch of glory where
they could not follow?  All pain aspires to oblivion, all toil to rest,
all troubled discontent with what is present to what is unfamiliar and
far away; and no power of knowledge and scientific fact will ever prevent
human unhappiness from reaching out towards some land of dreams of which
the burning brightness of a sea sunset is an image.  Is it very hard to
believe, then, that in that yearning towards the miracle of a sun
quenched in sea distance, felt and felt again in human hearts through
countless generations, the westward stream of human activity on this
planet had its rise?  Is it unreasonable to picture, on an earth spinning
eastward, a treadmill rush of feet to follow the sinking light?  The
history of man’s life in this world does not, at any rate, contradict us.
Wisdom, discovery, art, commerce, science, civilisation have all moved
west across our world; have all in their cycles followed the sun; have
all, in their day of power, risen in the East and set in the West.

This stream of life has grown in force and volume with the passage of
ages.  It has always set from shore to sea in countless currents of
adventure and speculation; but it has set most strongly from East to
West.  On its broad bosom the seeds of life and knowledge have been
carried throughout the world.  It brought the people of Tyre and Carthage
to the coasts and oceans of distant worlds; it carried the English from
Jutland across cold and stormy waters to the islands of their conquest;
it carried the Romans across half the world; it bore the civilisation of
the far East to new life and virgin western soils; it carried the new
West to the old East, and is in our day bringing back again the new East
to the old West.  Religions, arts, tradings, philosophies, vices and laws
have been borne, a strange flotsam, upon its unchanging flood.  It has
had its springs and neaps, its trembling high-water marks, its hour of
affluence, when the world has been flooded with golden humanity; its ebb
and effluence also, when it has seemed to shrink and desert the kingdoms
set upon its shores.  The fifteenth century in Western Europe found it at
a pause in its movements: it had brought the trade and the learning of
the East to the verge of the Old World, filling the harbours of the
Mediterranean with ships and the monasteries of Italy and Spain with
wisdom; and in the subsequent and punctual decadence that followed this
flood, there gathered in the returning tide a greater energy and volume
which was to carry the Old World bodily across the ocean.  And yet, for
all their wisdom and power, the Spanish and Portuguese were still in the
attitude of our primitive man, standing on the sea-shore and looking out
in wonder across the sea.

The flood of the life-stream began to set again, and little by little to
rise and inundate Western Europe, floating off the galleys and caravels
of King Alphonso of Portugal, and sending them to feel their way along
the coasts of Africa; a little later drawing the mind of Prince Henry the
Navigator to devote his life to the conquest and possession of the
unknown.  In his great castle on the promontory of Sagres, with the voice
of the Atlantic thundering in his ears, and its mists and sprays bounding
his vision, he felt the full force of the stream, and stretched his arms
to the mysterious West.  But the inner light was not yet so brightly
kindled that he dared to follow his heart; his ships went south and south
again, to brave on each voyage the dangers and terrors that lay along the
unknown African coast, until at length his captains saw the Cape of Good
Hope.  South and West and East were in those days confusing terms; for it
was the East that men were thinking of when they set their faces to the
setting sun, and it was a new road to the East that they sought when they
felt their way southward along the edge of the world.  But the rising
tide of discovery was working in that moment, engaging the brains of
innumerable sages, stirring the wonder of innumerable mariners; reaching
also, little by little, to quarters less immediately concerned with the
business of discovery.  Ships carried the strange tidings of new coasts
and new islands from port to port throughout the Mediterranean; Venetians
on the lagoons, Ligurians on the busy trading wharves of Genoa, were
discussing the great subject; and as the tide rose and spread, it floated
one ship of life after another that was destined for the great business
of adventure.  Some it inspired to dream and speculate, and to do no more
than that; many a heart also to brave efforts and determinations that
were doomed to come to nothing and to end only in failure.  And among
others who felt the force and was swayed and lifted by the prevailing
influence, there lived, some four and a half centuries ago, a little boy
playing about the wharves of Genoa, well known to his companions as
Christoforo, son of Domenico the wool-weaver, who lived in the Vico
Dritto di Ponticello.



It is often hard to know how far back we should go in the ancestry of a
man whose life and character we are trying to reconstruct.  The life that
is in him is not his own, but is mysteriously transmitted through the
life of his parents; to the common stock of his family, flesh of their
flesh, bone of their bone, character of their character, he has but added
his own personality.  However far back we go in his ancestry, there is
something of him to be traced, could we but trace it; and although it
soon becomes so widely scattered that no separate fraction of it seems to
be recognisable, we know that, generations back, we may come upon some
sympathetic fact, some reservoir of the essence that was him, in which we
can find the source of many of his actions, and the clue, perhaps, to his

In the case of Columbus we are spared this dilemma.  The past is reticent
enough about the man himself; and about his ancestors it is almost
silent.  We know that he had a father and grandfather, as all grandsons
of Adam have had; but we can be certain of very little more than that.
He came of a race of Italian yeomen inhabiting the Apennine valleys; and
in the vale of Fontanabuona, that runs up into the hills behind Genoa,
the two streams of family from which he sprang were united.  His father
from one hamlet, his mother from another; the towering hills behind, the
Mediterranean shining in front; love and marriage in the valley; and a
little boy to come of it whose doings were to shake the world.

His family tree begins for us with his grandfather, Giovanni Colombo of
Terra-Rossa, one of the hamlets in the valley--concerning whom many human
facts may be inferred, but only three are certainly known; that he lived,
begot children, and died.  Lived, first at Terra Rossa, and afterwards
upon the sea-shore at Quinto; begot children in number three--Antonio,
Battestina, and Domenico, the father of our Christopher; and died,
because one of the two facts in his history is that in the year 1444 he
was not alive, being referred to in a legal document as quondam, or, as
we should say, “the late.”  Of his wife, Christopher’s grandmother, since
she never bought or sold or witnessed anything requiring the record of
legal document, history speaks no word; although doubtless some pleasant
and picturesque old lady, or lady other than pleasant and picturesque,
had place in the experience or imagination of young Christopher.  Of the
pair, old Quondam Giovanni alone survives the obliterating drift of
generations, which the shores and brown slopes of Quinto al Mare, where
he sat in the sun and looked about him, have also survived.  Doubtless
old Quondam could have told us many things about Domenico, and his
over-sanguine buyings and sellings; have perhaps told us something about
Christopher’s environment, and cleared up our doubts concerning his first
home; but he does not.  He will sit in the sun there at Quinto, and sip
his wine, and say his Hail Marys, and watch the sails of the feluccas
leaning over the blue floor of the Mediterranean as long as you please;
but of information about son or family, not a word.  He is content to
have survived, and triumphantly twinkles his two dates at us across the
night of time.  1440, alive; 1444, not alive any longer: and so hail and
farewell, Grandfather John.

Of Antonio and Battestina, the uncle and aunt of Columbus, we know next
to nothing.  Uncle Antonio inherited the estate of Terra-Rossa, Aunt
Battestina was married in the valley; and so no more of either of them;
except that Antonio, who also married, had sons, cousins of Columbus, who
in after years, when he became famous, made themselves unpleasant, as
poor relations will, by recalling themselves to his remembrance and
suggesting that something might be done for them.  I have a belief,
supported by no historical fact or document, that between the families of
Domenico and Antonio there was a mild cousinly feud.  I believe they did
not like each other.  Domenico, as we shall see presently, was sanguine
and venturesome, a great buyer and seller, a maker of bargains in which
he generally came off second best.  Antonio, who settled in Terra-Rossa,
the paternal property, doubtless looked askance at these enterprises from
his vantage-ground of a settled income; doubtless also, on the occasion
of visits exchanged between the two families, he would comment upon the
unfortunate enterprises of his brother; and as the children of both
brothers grew up, they would inherit and exaggerate, as children will,
this settled difference between their respective parents.  This, of
course, may be entirely untrue, but I think it possible, and even likely;
for Columbus in after life displayed a very tender regard for members of
his family, but never to our knowledge makes any reference to these
cousins of his, till they send emissaries to him in his hour of triumph.
At any rate, among the influences that surrounded him at Genoa we may
reckon this uncle and aunt and their children--dim ghosts to us, but to
him real people, who walked and spoke, and blinked their eyes and moved
their limbs, like the men and women of our own time.  Less of a ghost to
us, though still a very shadowy and doubtful figure, is Domenico himself,
Christopher’s father.  He at least is a man in whom we can feel a warm
interest, as the one who actually begat and reared the man of our story.
We shall see him later, and chiefly in difficulties; executing deeds and
leases, and striking a great variety of legal attitudes, to the
witnessing of which various members of his family were called in.  Little
enough good did they to him at the time, poor Domenico; but he was a
benefactor to posterity without knowing it, and in these grave notarial
documents preserved almost the only evidence that we have as to the early
days of his illustrious son.  A kind, sanguine man, this Domenico, who,
if he failed to make a good deal of money in his various enterprises,
at least had some enjoyment of them, as the man who buys and sells and
strikes legal attitudes in every age desires and has.  He was a
wool-carder by trade, but that was not enough for him; he must buy
little bits of estates here and there; must even keep a tavern, where he
and his wife could entertain the foreign sailors and hear the news of
the world; where also, although perhaps they did not guess it, a sharp
pair of ears were also listening, and a pair of round eyes gazing, and
an inquisitive face set in astonishment at the strange tales that went

There is one fragment of fact about this Domenico that greatly enlarges
our knowledge of him.  He was a wool-weaver, as we know; he also kept a
tavern, and no doubt justified the adventure on the plea that it would
bring him customers for his woollen cloth; for your buyer and seller
never lacks a reason either for his selling or buying.  Presently he is
buying again; this time, still with striking of legal attitudes, calling
together of relations, and accompaniments of crabbed Latin notarial
documents, a piece of ground in the suburbs of Genoa, consisting of scrub
and undergrowth, which cannot have been of any earthly use to him.  But
also, according to the documents, there went some old wine-vats with the
land.  Domenico, taking a walk after Mass on some feast-day, sees the
land and the wine-vats; thinks dimly but hopefully how old wine-vats, if
of no use to any other human creature, should at least be of use to a
tavern-keeper; hurries back, overpowers the perfunctory objections of his
complaisant wife, and on the morrow of the feast is off to the notary’s
office.  We may be sure the wine-vats lay and rotted there, and furnished
no monetary profit to the wool-weaving tavern-keeper; but doubtless they
furnished him a rich profit of another kind when he walked about his
newly-acquired property, and explained what he was going to do with the

And besides the weaving of wool and pouring of wine and buying and
selling of land, there were more human occupations, which Domenico was
not the man to neglect.  He had married, about the year 1450, one
Susanna, a daughter of Giacomo of Fontana-Rossa, a silk weaver who lived
in the hamlet near to Terra-Rossa.  Domenico’s father was of the more
consequence of the two, for he had, as well as his home in the valley, a
house at Quinto, where he probably kept a felucca for purposes of trade
with Alexandria and the Islands.  Perhaps the young people were married
at Quinto, but if so they did not live there long, moving soon into
Genoa, where Domenico could more conveniently work at his trade.  The
wool-weavers at that time lived in a quarter outside the old city walls,
between them and the outer borders of the city, which is now occupied by
the park and public gardens.  Here they had their dwellings and
workshops, their schools and institutions, receiving every protection and
encouragement from the Signoria, who recognised the importance of the
wool trade and its allied industries to Genoa.  Cloth-weavers,
blanket-makers, silk-weavers, and velvet-makers all lived in this
quarter, and held their houses under the neighbouring abbey of San
Stefano.  There are two houses mentioned in documents which seem to have
been in the possession of Domenico at different times.  One was in the
suburbs outside the Olive Gate; the other was farther in, by St.
Andrew’s Gate, and quite near to the sea.  The house outside the Olive
Gate has disappeared; and it was probably here that our Christopher
first saw the light, and pleased Domenico’s heart with his little cries
and struggles. Neither the day nor even the year is certainly known, but
there is most reason to believe that it was in the year 1451.  They must
have moved soon afterwards to the house in the Vico Dritto di
Ponticello, No. 37, in which most of Christopher’s childhood was
certainly passed.  This is a house close to St. Andrew’s Gate, which
gate still stands in a beautiful and ruinous condition.

From the new part of Genoa, and from the Via XX Settembre, you turn into
the little Piazza di Ponticello just opposite the church of San Stefano.
In a moment you are in old Genoa, which is to-day in appearance virtually
the same as the place in which Christopher and his little brothers and
sisters made the first steps of their pilgrimage through this world.  If
the Italian, sun has been shining fiercely upon you, in the great modern
thoroughfare, you will turn into this quarter of narrow streets and high
houses with grateful relief.  The past seems to meet you there; and from
the Piazza, gay with its little provision-shops and fruit stalls, you
walk up the slope of the Vico Dritto di Ponticello, leaving the sunlight
behind you, and entering the narrow street like a traveller entering a
mountain gorge.

It is a very curious street this; I suppose there is no street in the
world that has more character.  Genoa invented sky-scrapers long before
Columbus had discovered America, or America had invented steel frames for
high building; but although many of the houses in the Vico Dritto di
Ponticello are seven and eight storeys high, the width of the street from
house-wall to house-wall does not average more than nine feet.  The
street is not straight, moreover; it winds a little in its ascent to the
old city wall and St. Andrew’s Gate, so that you do not even see the sky
much as you look forward and upwards.  The jutting cornices of the roofs,
often beautifully decorated, come together in a medley of angles and
corners that practically roof the street over; and only here and there do
you see a triangle or a parallelogram of the vivid brilliant blue that is
the sky.  Besides being seven or eight storeys high, the houses are the
narrowest in the world; I should think that their average width on the
street front is ten feet.  So as you walk up this street where young
Christopher lived you must think of it in these three dimensions towering
slices of houses, ten or twelve feet in width: a street often not more
than eight and seldom more than fifteen feet in width; and the walls of
the houses themselves, painted in every colour, green and pink and grey
and white, and trellised with the inevitable green window-shutters of the
South, standing like cliffs on each side of you seven or eight rooms
high.  There being so little horizontal space for the people to live
there, what little there is is most economically used; and all across the
tops of the houses, high above your head, the cliffs are joined by wires
and clothes-lines from which thousands of brightly-dyed garments are
always hanging and fluttering; higher still, where the top storeys of the
houses become merged in roof, there are little patches of garden and
greenery, where geraniums and delicious tangling creepers uphold thus
high above the ground the fertile tradition of earth.  You walk slowly up
the paved street.  One of its characteristics, which it shares with the
old streets of most Italian towns, is that it is only used by
foot-passengers, being of course too narrow for wheels; and it is paved
across with flagstones from door to door, so that the feet and the
voices echo pleasantly in it, and make a music of their own.  Without
exception the ground floor of every house is a shop--the gayest, busiest
most industrious little shops in the world.  There are shops for
provisions, where the delightful macaroni lies in its various bins, and
all kinds of frugal and nourishing foods are offered for sale.  There
are shops for clothes and dyed finery; there are shops for boots, where
boots hang in festoons like onions outside the window--I have never seen
so many boot-shops at once in my life as I saw in the streets
surrounding the house of Columbus.  And every shop that is not a
provision-shop or a clothes-shop or a boot-shop, is a wine-shop--or at
least you would think so, until you remember, after you have walked
through the street, what a lot of other kinds of shops you have seen on
your way.  There are shops for newspapers and tobacco, for cheap
jewellery, for brushes, for chairs and tables and articles of wood;
there are shops with great stacks and piles of crockery; there are shops
for cheese and butter and milk--indeed from this one little street in
Genoa you could supply every necessary and every luxury of a humble

As you still go up, the street takes a slight bend; and immediately
before you, you see it spanned by the lofty crumbled arch of St.
Andrew’s Gate, with its two mighty towers one on each side.  Just as you
see it you are at Columbus’s house.  The number is thirty-seven; it is
like any of the other houses, tall and narrow; and there is a slab built
into the wall above the first storey, on which is written this

                      NVLLA DOMVS TITVLO DIGNIOR
                          PATERNIS IN AEDIBV
                        CHRISTOPHORVS COLVMBVS

You stop and look at it; and presently you become conscious of a
difference between it and all the other houses.  They are all alert,
busy, noisy, crowded with life in every storey, oozing vitality from
every window; but of all the narrow vertical strips that make up the
houses of the street, this strip numbered thirty-seven is empty, silent,
and dead.  The shutters veil its windows; within it is dark, empty of
furniture, and inhabited only by a memory and a spirit.  It is a strange
place in which to stand and to think of all that has happened since the
man of our thoughts looked forth from these windows, a common little boy.
The world is very much alive in the Vico Dritto di Ponticello; the little
freshet of life that flows there flows loud and incessant; and yet into
what oceans of death and silence has it not poured since it carried forth
Christopher on its stream!  One thinks of the continent of that New World
that he discovered, and all the teeming millions of human lives that have
sprung up and died down, and sprung up again, and spread and increased
there; all the ploughs that have driven into its soil, the harvests that
have ripened, the waving acres and miles of grain that have answered the
call of Spring and Autumn since first the bow of his boat grated on the
shore of Guanahani.  And yet of the two scenes this narrow shuttered
house in a bye-street of Genoa is at once the more wonderful and more
credible; for it contains the elements of the other.  Walls and floors
and a roof, a place to eat and sleep in, a place to work and found a
family, and give tangible environment to a human soul--there is all human
enterprise and discovery, effort, adventure, and life in that.

If Christopher wanted to go down to the sea he would have to pass under
the Gate of St. Andrew, with the old prison, now pulled down to make room
for the modern buildings, on his right, and go down the Salita del
Prione, which is a continuation of the Vico Dritto di Ponticello.  It
slopes downwards from the Gate as the first street sloped upwards to it;
and it contains the same assortment of shops and of houses, the same
mixture of handicrafts and industries, as were seen in the Vico Dritto di
Ponticello.  Presently he would come to the Piazza dell’ Erbe, where
there is no grass, but only a pleasant circle of little houses and shops,
with already a smack of the sea in them, chiefly suggested by the shops
of instrument-makers, where to-day there are compasses and sextants and
chronometers.  Out of the Piazza you come down the Via di San Donato and
into the Piazza of that name, where for over nine centuries the church of
San Donato has faced the sun and the weather.  From there Christopher’s
young feet would follow the winding Via di San Bernato, a street also
inhabited by craftsmen and workers in wood and metal; and at the last
turn of it, a gash of blue between the two cliffwalls of houses, you see
the Mediterranean.

Here, then, between the narrow little house by the Gate and the clamour
and business of the sea-front, our Christopher’s feet carried him daily
during some part of his childish life.  What else he did, what he thought
and felt, what little reflections he had, are but matters of conjecture.
Genoa will tell you nothing more.  You may walk over the very spot where
he was born; you may unconsciously tread in the track of his vanished
feet; you may wander about the wharves of the city, and see the ships
loading and unloading--different ships, but still trafficking in
commodities not greatly different from those of his day; you may climb
the heights behind Genoa, and look out upon the great curving Gulf from
Porto Fino to where the Cape of the western Riviera dips into the sea;
you may walk along the coast to Savona, where Domenico had one of his
many habitations, where he kept the tavern, and whither Christopher’s
young feet must also have walked; and you may come back and search again
in the harbour, from the old Mole and the Bank of St. George to where the
port and quays stretch away to the medley of sailing-ships and steamers;
but you will not find any sign or trace of Christopher.  No echo of the
little voice that shrilled in the narrow street sounds in the Vico
Dritto; the houses stand gaunt and straight, with a brilliant strip of
blue sky between their roofs and the cool street beneath; but they give
you nothing of what you seek.  If you see a little figure running towards
you in a blue smock, the head fair-haired, the face blue-eyed and a
little freckled with the strong sunshine, it is not a real figure; it is
a child of your dreams and a ghost of the past.  You may chase him while
he runs about the wharves and stumbles over the ropes, but you will never
catch him.  He runs before you, zigzagging over the cobbles, up the sunny
street, into the narrow house; out again, running now towards the Duomo,
hiding in the porch of San Stefano, where the weavers held their
meetings; back again along the wharves; surely he is hiding behind that
mooring-post!  But you look, and he is not there--nothing but the old
harbour dust that the wind stirs into a little eddy while you look.  For
he belongs not to you or me, this child; he is not yet enslaved to the
great purpose, not yet caught up into the machinery of life.  His eye has
not yet caught the fire of the sun setting on a western sea; he is still
free and happy, and belongs only to those who love him.  Father and
mother, brothers Bartolomeo and Giacomo, sister Biancinetta, aunts,
uncles, and cousins possibly, and possibly for a little while an old
grandmother at Quinto--these were the people to whom that child belonged.
The little life of his first decade, unviolated by documents or history,
lives happily in our dreams, as blank as sunshine.



Christopher was fourteen years old when he first went to sea.  That
is his own statement, and it is one of the few of his autobiographical
utterances that we need not doubt.  From it, and from a knowledge of
certain other dates, we are able to construct some vague picture of his
doings before he left Italy and settled in Portugal.  Already in his
young heart he was feeling the influence that was to direct and shape
his destiny; already, towards his home in Genoa, long ripples from the
commotion of maritime adventure in the West were beginning to spread.
At the age of ten he was apprenticed to his father, who undertook,
according to the indentures, to provide him with board and lodging, a
blue gabardine and a pair of good shoes, and various other matters in
return for his service.  But there is no reason to suppose that he ever
occupied himself very much with wool-weaving.  He had a vocation quite
other than that, and if he ever did make any cloth there must have been
some strange thoughts and imaginings woven into it, as he plied the
shuttle.  Most of his biographers, relying upon a doubtful statement in
the life of him written by his son Ferdinand, would have us send him at
the age of twelve to the distant University of Pavia, there, poor mite,
to sit at the feet of learned professors studying Latin, mathematics, and
cosmography; but fortunately it is not necessary to believe so improbable
a statement.  What is much more likely about his education--for education
he had, although not of the superior kind with which he has been
credited--is that in the blank, sunny time of his childhood he was sent
to one of the excellent schools established by the weavers in their own
quarter, and that there or afterwards he came under some influence, both
religious and learned, which stamped him the practical visionary that he
remained throughout his life.  Thereafter, between his sea voyagings and
expeditions about the Mediterranean coasts, he no doubt acquired
knowledge in the only really practical way that it can be acquired; that
is to say, he received it as and when he needed it.  What we know is that
he had in later life some knowledge of the works of Aristotle, Julius
Caesar, Seneca, Pliny, and Ptolemy; of Ahmet-Ben-Kothair the Arabic
astronomer, Rochid the Arabian, and the Rabbi Samuel the Jew; of Isadore
the Spaniard, and Bede and Scotus the Britons; of Strabo the German,
Gerson the Frenchman, and Nicolaus de Lira the Italian.  These names
cover a wide range, but they do not imply university education.  Some of
them merely suggest acquaintance with the ‘Imago Mundi’; others imply
that selective faculty, the power of choosing what can help a man’s
purpose and of rejecting what is useless to it, that is one of the marks
of genius, and an outward sign of the inner light.

We must think of him, then, at school in Genoa, grinding out the tasks
that are the common heritage of all small boys; working a little at the
weaving, interestedly enough at first, no doubt, while the importance of
having a loom appealed to him, but also no doubt rapidly cooling off in
his enthusiasm as the pastime became a task, and the restriction of
indoor life began to be felt.  For if ever there was a little boy who
loved to idle about the wharves and docks, here was that little boy.
It was here, while he wandered about the crowded quays and listened to
the medley of talk among the foreign sailors, and looked beyond the masts
of the ships into the blue distance of the sea, that the desire to wander
and go abroad upon the face of the waters must first have stirred in his
heart.  The wharves of Genoa in those days combined in themselves all the
richness of romance and adventure, buccaneering, trading, and
treasure-snatching, that has ever crowded the pages of romance.  There
were galleys and caravels, barques and feluccas, pinnaces and caraccas.
There were slaves in the galleys, and bowmen to keep the slaves in
subjection. There were dark-bearded Spaniards, fair-haired Englishmen;
there were Greeks, and Indians, and Portuguese.  The bales of goods on
the harbour-side were eloquent of distant lands, and furnished object
lessons in the only geography that young Christopher was likely to be
learning.  There was cotton from Egypt, and tin and lead from
Southampton.  There were butts of Malmsey from Candia; aloes and cassia
and spices from Socotra; rhubarb from Persia; silk from India; wool from
Damascus, raw wool also from Calais and Norwich.  No wonder if the
little house in the Vico Dritto di Ponticello became too narrow for the
boy; and no wonder that at the age of fourteen he was able to have his
way, and go to sea.  One can imagine him gradually acquiring an
influence over his father, Domenico, as his will grew stronger and
firmer--he with one grand object in life, Domenico with none; he with a
single clear purpose, and Domenico with innumerable cloudy ones.  And
so, on some day in the distant past, there were farewells and anxious
hearts in the weaver’s house, and Christopher, member of the crew of
some trading caravel or felucca, a diminishing object to the wet eyes
of his mother, sailed away, and faded into the blue distance.

They had lost him, although perhaps they did not realise it; from the
moment of his first voyage the sea claimed him as her own.  Widening
horizons, slatting of cords and sails in the wind, storms and stars and
strange landfalls and long idle calms, thunder of surges, tingle of
spray, and eternal labouring and threshing and cleaving of infinite
waters--these were to be his portion and true home hereafter.
Attendances at Court, conferences with learned monks and bishops,
sojourns on lonely islands, love under stars in the gay, sun-smitten
Spanish towns, governings and parleyings in distant, undreamed-of lands
--these were to be but incidents in his true life, which was to be
fulfilled in the solitude of sea watches.

When he left his home on this first voyage, he took with him one other
thing besides the restless longing to escape beyond the line of sea and
sky.  Let us mark well this possession of his, for it was his companion
and guiding-star throughout a long and difficult life, his chart and
compass, astrolabe and anchor, in one.  Religion has in our days fallen
into decay among men of intellect and achievement.  The world has thrown
it, like a worn garment or an old skin, from off its body, the thing
itself being no longer real and alive, and in harmony with the life of
an age that struggles towards a different kind of truth.  It is hard,
therefore, for us to understand exactly how the religion of Columbus
entered so deeply into his life and brooded so widely over his thoughts.

Hardest of all is it for people whose only experience of religion is of
Puritan inheritance to comprehend how, in the fifteenth century, the
strong intellect was strengthened, and the stout heart fortified, by the
thought of hosts of saints and angels hovering above a man’s incomings
and outgoings to guide and protect him.  Yet in an age that really had
the gift of faith, in which religion was real and vital, and part of the
business of every man’s daily life; in which it stood honoured in the
world, loaded with riches, crowned with learning, wielding government
both temporal and spiritual, it was a very brave panoply for the soul of
man.  The little boy in Genoa, with the fair hair and blue eyes and grave
freckled face that made him remarkable among his dark companions, had no
doubt early received and accepted the vast mysteries of the Christian
faith; and as that other mystery began to grow in his mind, and that idea
of worlds that might lie beyond the sea-line began to take shape in his
thoughts, he found in the holy wisdom of the prophets, and the inspired
writings of the fathers, a continual confirmation of his faith.  The full
conviction of these things belongs to a later period of his life; but
probably, during his first voyagings in the Mediterranean, there hung in
his mind echoes of psalms and prophecies that had to do with things
beyond the world of his vision and experience.  The sun, whose going
forth is to the end of heaven, his circuit back to the end of it, and
from whose heat there is nothing hid; the truth, holy and prevailing,
that knows no speech nor language where its voice is not heard; the great
and wide sea, with its creeping things innumerable, and beasts small and
great--no wonder if these things impressed him, and if gradually, as his
way fell clearer before him, and the inner light began to shine more
steadily, he came to believe that he had a special mission to carry the
torch of the faith across the Sea of Darkness, and be himself the bearer
of a truth that was to go through all the earth, and of words that were
to travel to the world’s end.

In this faith, then, and with this equipment, and about the year 1465,
Christopher Columbus began his sea travels.  His voyages would be
doubtless at first much along the coasts, and across to Alexandria and
the Islands.  There would be returnings to Genoa, and glad welcomings by
the little household in the narrow street; in 1472 and 1473 he was with
his father at Savona, helping with the wool-weaving and tavern-keeping;
possibly also there were interviews with Benincasa, who was at that time
living in Genoa, and making his famous sea-charts.  Perhaps it was in his
studio that Christopher first saw a chart, and first fell in love with
the magic that can transfer the shapes of oceans and continents to a
piece of paper.  Then he would be off again in another ship, to the
Golden Horn perhaps, or the Black Sea, for the Genoese had a great
Crimean trade.  This is all conjecture, but very reasonable conjecture;
what we know for a fact is that he saw the white gum drawn from the
lentiscus shrubs in Chio at the time of their flowering; that fragrant
memory is preserved long afterwards in his own writings, evoked by some
incident in the newly-discovered islands of the West.  There are vague
rumours and stories of his having been engaged in various expeditions
--among them one fitted out in Genoa by John of Anjou to recover the
kingdom of Naples for King Rene of Provence; but there is no reason to
believe these rumours: good reason to disbelieve them, rather.

The lives that the sea absorbs are passed in a great variety of adventure
and experience, but so far as the world is concerned they are passed in a
profound obscurity; and we need not wonder that of all the mariners who
used those seas, and passed up and down, and held their course by the
stars, and reefed their sails before the sudden squalls that came down
from the mountains, and shook them out again in the calm sunshine that
followed, there is no record of the one among their number who was
afterwards to reef and steer and hold his course to such mighty purpose.
For this period, then, we must leave him to the sea, and to the vast
anonymity of sea life.



Christopher is gone, vanished over that blue horizon; and the tale of
life in Genoa goes on without him very much as before, except that
Domenico has one apprentice less, and, a matter becoming of some
importance in the narrow condition of his finances, one boy less to feed
and clothe.  For good Domenico, alas! is no economist.  Those hardy
adventures of his in the buying and selling line do not prosper him; the
tavern does not pay; perhaps the tavern-keeper is too hospitable; at any
rate, things are not going well.  And yet Domenico had a good start; as
his brother Antonio has doubtless often told him, he had the best of old
Giovanni’s inheritance; he had the property at Quinto, and other property
at Ginestreto, and some ground rents at Pradella; a tavern at Savona, a
shop there and at Genoa--really, Domenico has no excuse for his
difficulties.  In 1445 he was selling land at Quinto, presumably with the
consent of old Giovanni, if he was still alive; and if he was not living,
then immediately after his death, in the first pride of possession.

In 1450 he bought a pleasant house at Quarto, a village on the sea-shore
about a mile to the west of Quinto and about five miles to the east of
Genoa.  It was probably a pure speculation, as he immediately leased the
house for two years, and never lived in it himself, although it was a
pleasant place, with an orchard of olives and figs and various other
trees--‘arboratum olivis ficubus et aliis diversis arboribus’.  His next
recorded transaction is in 1466, when he went security for a friend,
doubtless with disastrous results.  In 1473 he sold the house at the
Olive Gate, that suburban dwelling where probably Christopher was born,
and in 1474 he invested the proceeds of that sale in a piece of land
which I have referred to before, situated in the suburbs of Savona, with
which were sold those agreeable and useless wine-vats.  Domenico was
living at Savona then, and the property which he so fatuously acquired
consisted of two large pieces of land on the Via Valcalda, containing a
few vines, a plantation of fruit-trees, and a large area of shrub and
underwood.  The price, however, was never paid in full, and was the cause
of a lawsuit which dragged on for forty years, and was finally settled by
Don Diego Columbus, Christopher’s son, who sent a special authority from

Owing, no doubt, to the difficulties that this un fortunate purchase
plunged him into, Domenico was obliged to mortgage his house at St.
Andrew’s Gate in the year 1477; and in 1489 he finally gave it up to
Jacob Baverelus, the cheese-monger, his son-in-law.  Susanna, who had
been the witness of his melancholy transactions for so many years, and
possibly the mainstay of that declining household, died in 1494; but not,
we may hope, before she had heard of the fame of her son Christopher.
Domenico, in receipt of a pension from the famous Admiral of the Ocean,
and no doubt talking with a deal of pride and inaccuracy about the
discovery of the New World, lived on until 1498; when he died also, and
vanished out of this world.  He had fulfilled a noble destiny in being
the father of Christopher Columbus.



The long years that Christopher Columbus spent at sea in making voyages
to and from his home in Genoa, years so blank to us, but to him who lived
them so full of life and active growth, were most certainly fruitful in
training and equipping him for that future career of which as yet,
perhaps, he did not dream.  The long undulating waves of the
Mediterranean, with land appearing and dissolving away in the morning and
evening mists, the business of ship life, harsh and rough in detail, but
not too absorbing to the mind of a common mariner to prevent any thoughts
he might have finding room to grow and take shape; sea breezes, sea
storms, sea calms; these were the setting of his knowledge and experience
as he fared from port to port and from sea to sea.  He is a very elusive
figure in that environment of misty blue, very hard to hold and identify,
very shy of our scrutiny, and inaccessible even to our speculation.  If
we would come up with him, and place ourselves in some kind of sympathy
with the thoughts that were forming in his brain, it is necessary that we
should, for the moment, forget much of what we know of the world, and
assume the imperfect knowledge of the globe that man possessed in those
years when Columbus was sailing the Mediterranean.

That the earth was a round globe of land and water was a fact that, after
many contradictions and uncertainties, intelligent men had by this time
accepted.  A conscious knowledge of the world as a whole had been a part
of human thought for many hundreds of years; and the sphericity of the
earth had been a theory in the sixth century before Christ.  In the
fourth century Aristotle had watched the stars and eclipses; in the third
century Eratosthenes had measured a degree of latitude, and measured it
wrong;--[Not so very wrong.  D.W.]--in the second century the
philosopher Crates had constructed a rude sort of globe, on which were
marked the known kingdoms of the earth, and some also unknown.  With the
coming of the Christian era the theory of the roundness of the earth
began to be denied; and as knowledge and learning became gathered into
the hands of the Church they lost something of their clarity and
singleness, and began to be used arbitrarily as evidence for or against
other and less material theories.  St. Chrysostom opposed the theory of
the earth’s roundness; St. Isidore taught it; and so also did St.
Augustine, as we might expect from a man of his wisdom who lived so long
in a monastery that looked out to sea from a high point, and who wrote
the words ‘Ubi magnitudo, ibi veritas’.  In the sixth century of the
Christian era Bishop Cosmas gave much thought to this matter of a round
world, and found a new argument which to his mind (poor Cosmas!) disposed
of it very clearly; for he argued that, if the world were round, the
people dwelling at the antipodes could not see Christ at His coming, and
that therefore the earth was not round.  But Bede, in the eighth century,
established it finally as a part of human knowledge that the earth and
all the heavenly bodies were spheres, and after that the fact was not
again seriously disputed.

What lay beyond the frontier of the known was a speculation inseparable
from the spirit of exploration.  Children, and people who do not travel,
are generally content, when their thoughts stray beyond the paths trodden
by their feet, to believe that the greater world is but a continuation on
every side of their own environment; indeed, without the help of sight or
suggestion, it is almost impossible to believe anything else.  If you
stand on an eminence in a great plain and think of the unseen country
that lies beyond the horizon, trying to visualise it and imagine that you
see it, the eye of imagination can only see the continuance or projection
of what is seen by the bodily sight.  If you think, you can occupy the
invisible space with a landscape made up from your own memory and
knowledge: you may think of mountain chains and rivers, although there
are none visible to your sight, or you may imagine vast seas and islands,
oceans and continents.  This, however, is thought, not pure imagination;
and even so, with every advantage of thought and knowledge, you will not
be able to imagine beyond your horizon a space of sea so wide that the
farther shore is invisible, and yet imagine the farther shore also.  You
will see America across the Atlantic and Japan across the Pacific; but
you cannot see, in one single effort of the imagination, an Atlantic of
empty blue water stretching to an empty horizon, another beyond that
equally vast and empty, another beyond that, and so on until you have
spanned the thousand horizons that lie between England and America.  The
mind, that is to say, works in steps and spans corresponding to the spans
of physical sight; it cannot clear itself enough from the body, or rise
high enough beyond experience, to comprehend spaces so much vaster than
anything ever seen by the eye of man.  So also with the stretching of the
horizon which bounded human knowledge of the earth.  It moved step by
step; if one of Prince Henry’s captains, creeping down the west coast of
Africa, discovered a cape a hundred miles south of the known world, the
most he could probably do was to imagine that there might lie, still
another hundred miles farther south, another cape; to sail for it in
faith and hope, to find it, and to imagine another possibility yet
another hundred miles away.  So far as experience went back, faith could
look forward.  It is thus with the common run of mankind; yesterday’s
march is the measure of to-morrow’s; as much as they have done once, they
may do again; they fear it will be not much more; they hope it may be not
much less.

The history of the exploration of the world up to the day when Columbus
set sail from Palos is just such a history of steps.  The Phoenicians
coasting from harbour to harbour through the Mediterranean; the Romans
marching from camp to camp, from country to country; the Jutes venturing
in their frail craft into the stormy northern seas, making voyages a
little longer and more daring every time, until they reached England; the
captains of Prince Henry of Portugal feeling their way from voyage to
voyage down the coast of Africa--there are no bold flights into the
incredible here, but patient and business-like progress from one
stepping-stone to another.  Dangers and hardships there were, and brave
followings of the faint will-o’-the-wisp of faith in what lay beyond; but
there were no great launchings into space.  They but followed a line that
was the continuance or projection of the line they had hitherto followed;
what they did was brave and glorious, but it was reasonable.  What
Columbus did, on the contrary, was, as we shall see later, against all
reason and knowledge.  It was a leap in the dark towards some star
invisible to all but him; for he who sets forth across the desert sand or
sea must have a brighter sun to guide him than that which sets and rises
on the day of the small man.

Our familiarity with maps and atlases makes it difficult for us to think
of the world in other terms than those of map and diagram; knowledge and
science have focussed things for us, and our imagination has in
consequence shrunk.  It is almost impossible, when thinking of the earth
as a whole, to think about it except as a picture drawn, or as a small
globe with maps traced upon it.  I am sure that our imagination has a far
narrower angle--to borrow a term from the science of lenses--than the
imagination of men who lived in the fifteenth century.  They thought of
the world in its actual terms--seas, islands, continents, gulfs, rivers,
oceans.  Columbus had seen maps and charts--among them the famous
‘portolani’ of Benincasa at Genoa; but I think it unlikely that he was so
familiar with them as to have adopted their terms in his thoughts about
the earth.  He had seen the Mediterranean and sailed upon it before he
had seen a chart of it; he knew a good deal of the world itself before he
had seen a map of it.  He had more knowledge of the actual earth and sea
than he had of pictures or drawings of them; and therefore, if we are to
keep in sympathetic touch with him, we must not think too closely of
maps, but of land and sea themselves.

The world that Columbus had heard about as being within the knowledge of
men extended on the north to Iceland and Scandinavia, on the south to a
cape one hundred miles south of the Equator, and to the east as far as
China and Japan.  North and South were not important to the spirit of
that time; it was East and West that men thought of when they thought of
the expansion and the discovery of the world.  And although they admitted
that the earth was a sphere, I think it likely that they imagined
(although the imagination was contrary to their knowledge) that the line
of West and East was far longer, and full of vaster possibilities, than
that of North and South.  North was familiar ground to them--one voyage
to England, another to Iceland, another to Scandinavia; there was nothing
impossible about that.  Southward was another matter; but even here there
was no ambition to discover the limit of the world.  It is an error
continually made by the biographers of Columbus that the purpose of
Prince Henry’s explorations down the coast of Africa was to find a sea
road to the West Indies by way of the East.  It was nothing of the kind.
There was no idea in the minds of the Portuguese of the land which
Columbus discovered, and which we now know as the West Indies.  Mr.
Vignaud contends that the confusion arose from the very loose way in
which the term India was applied in the Middle Ages.  Several Indias were
recognised.  There was an India beyond the Ganges; a Middle India between
the Ganges and the Indus; and a Lesser India, in which were included
Arabia, Abyssinia, and the countries about the Red Sea.  These divisions
were, however, quite vague, and varied in different periods.  In the time
of Columbus the word India meant the kingdom of Prester John, that
fabulous monarch who had been the subject of persistent legends since the
twelfth century; and it was this India to which the Portuguese sought a
sea road.  They had no idea of a barrier cape far to the south, the
doubling of which would open a road for them to the west; nor were they,
as Mr. Vignaud believes, trying to open a route for the spice trade with
the Orient.  They had no great spice trade, and did not seek more; what
they did seek was an extension of their ordinary trade with Guinea and
the African coast.  To the maritime world of the fifteenth century, then,
the South as a geographical region and as a possible point of discovery
had no attractions.

To the west stretched what was known as the Sea of Darkness, about which
even the cool knowledge of the geographers and astronomers could not
think steadily.  Nothing was known about it, it did not lead anywhere,
there were no people there, there was no trade in that direction.  The
tides of history and of life avoided it; only now and then some terrified
mariner, blown far out of his course, came back with tales of sea
monsters and enchanted disappearing islands, and shores that receded, and
coasts upon which no one could make a landfall.  The farthest land known
to the west was the Azores; beyond that stretched a vague and impossible
ocean of terror and darkness, of which the Arabian writer Xerif al
Edrisi, whose countrymen were the sea-kings of the Middle Ages, wrote as

     “The ocean encircles the ultimate bounds of the inhabited earth, and
     all beyond it is unknown.  No one has been able to verify anything
     concerning it, on account of its difficult and perilous navigation,
     its great obscurity, its profound depth, and frequent tempests;
     through fear of its mighty fishes and its haughty winds; yet there
     are many islands in it, some peopled, others uninhabited.  There is
     no mariner who dares to enter into its deep waters; or if any have
     done so, they have merely kept along its coasts, fearful of
     departing from them.  The waves of this ocean, although they roll as
     high as mountains, yet maintain themselves without breaking; for if
     they broke it would be impossible for a ship to plough them.”

It is another illustration of the way in which discovery and imagination
had hitherto gone by steps and not by flights, that geographical
knowledge reached the islands of the Atlantic (none of which were at a
very great distance from the coast of Europe or from each other) at a
comparatively early date, and stopped there until in Columbus there was
found a man with faith strong enough to make the long flight beyond them
to the unknown West.  And yet the philosophers, and later the
cartographers, true to their instinct for this pedestrian kind of
imagination, put mythical lands and islands to the westward of the known
islands as though they were really trying to make a way, to sink stepping
stones into the deep sea that would lead their thoughts across the
unknown space.  In the Catalan map of the world, which was the standard
example of cosmography in the early days of Columbus, most of these
mythical islands are marked.  There was the island of Antilia, which was
placed in 25 deg. 35’ W., and was said to have been discovered by Don
Roderick, the last of the Gothic kings of Spain, who fled there after
his defeat by the Moors.  There was the island of the Seven Cities,
which is sometimes identified with this Antilia, and was the object of a
persistent belief or superstition on the part of the inhabitants of the
Canary Islands.  They saw, or thought they saw, about ninety leagues to
the westward, an island with high peaks and deep valleys.  The vision was
intermittent; it was only seen in very clear weather, on some of those
pure, serene days of the tropics when in the clear atmosphere distant
objects appear to be close at hand.  In cloudy, and often in clear
weather also, it was not to be seen at all; but the inhabitants of the
Canaries, who always saw it in the same place, were so convinced of its
reality that they petitioned the King of Portugal to allow them to go and
take possession of it; and several expeditions were in fact despatched,
but none ever came up with that fairy land.  It was called the island of
the Seven Cities from a legend of seven bishops who had fled from Spain
at the time of the Moorish conquest, and, landing upon this island, had
founded there seven splendid cities.  There was the island of St.
Brandan, called after the Saint who set out from Ireland in the sixth
century in search of an island which always receded before his ships;
this island was placed several hundred miles to the west of the Canaries
on maps and charts through out the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
There was the island of Brazil, to the west of Cape St. Vincent; the
islands of Royllo, San Giorgio, and Isola di Mam; but they were all
islands of dreams, seen by the eyes of many mariners in that imaginative
time, but never trodden by any foot of man.  To Columbus, however, and
the mariners of his day, they were all real places, which a man might
reach by special good fortune or heroism, but which, all things
considered, it was not quite worth the while of any man to attempt to
reach.  They have all disappeared from our charts, like the Atlantis of
Plato, that was once charted to the westward of the Straits of Gibraltar,
and of which the Canaries were believed to be the last peaks unsubmerged.

Sea myths and legends are strange things, and do not as a rule persist in
the minds of men unless they have had some ghostly foundation; so it is
possible that these fabled islands of the West were lands that had
actually been seen by living eyes, although their position could never be
properly laid down nor their identity assured.  Of all the wandering
seamen who talked in the wayside taverns of Atlantic seaports, some must
have had strange tales to tell; tales which sometimes may have been true,
but were never believed.  Vague rumours hung about those shores, like
spray and mist about a headland, of lands seen and lost again in the
unknown and uncharted ocean.  Doubtless the lamp of faith, the inner
light, burned in some of these storm-tossed men; but all they had was a
glimpse here and there, seen for a moment and lost again; not the clear
sight of faith by which Columbus steered his westward course.

The actual outposts of western occupation, then, were the Azores, which
were discovered by Genoese sailors in the pay of Portugal early in the
fourteenth century; the Canaries, which had been continuously discovered
and rediscovered since the Phoenicians occupied them and Pliny chose them
for his Hesperides; and Madeira, which is believed to have been
discovered by an Englishman under the following very romantic and moving

In the reign of Edward the Third a young man named Robert Machin fell in
love with a beautiful girl, his superior in rank, Anne Dorset or d’Urfey
by name.  She loved him also, but her relations did not love him; and
therefore they had Machin imprisoned upon some pretext or other, and
forcibly married the young lady to a nobleman who had a castle on the
shores of the Bristol Channel.

The marriage being accomplished, and the girl carried away by her
bridegroom to his seat in the West, it was thought safe to release
Machin.  Whereupon he collected several friends, and they followed the
newly-married couple to Bristol and laid their plans for an abduction.
One of the friends got himself engaged as a groom in the service of the
unhappy bride, and found her love unchanged, and if possible increased by
the present misery she was in.  An escape was planned; and one day, when
the girl and her groom were riding in the park, they set spurs to their
horses, and galloped off to a place on the shores of the Bristol Channel
where young Robert had a boat on the beach and a ship in the offing.
They set sail immediately, intending to make for France, where the
reunited lovers hoped to live happily; but it came on to blow when they
were off the Lizard, and a southerly gale, which lasted for thirteen
days, drove them far out of their course.

The bride, from her joy and relief, fell into a state of the gloomiest
despondency, believing that the hand of God was turned against her,
and that their love would never be enjoyed.  The tempest fell on the
fourteenth day, and at the break of morning the sea-worn company saw
trees and land ahead of them.  In the sunrise they landed upon an island
full of noble trees, about which flights of singing birds were hovering,
and in which the sweetest fruits, the most lovely flowers, and the purest
and most limpid waters abounded.  Machin and his bride and their friends
made an encampment on a flowery meadow in a sheltered valley, where for
three days they enjoyed the sweetness and rest of the shore and the
companionship of all kinds of birds and beasts, which showed no signs of
fear at their presence.  On the third day a storm arose, and raged for a
night over the island; and in the morning the adventurers found that
their ship was nowhere to be seen.  The despair of the little company was
extreme, and was increased by the condition of poor Anne, upon whom
terror and remorse again fell, and so preyed upon her mind that in three
days she was dead.  Her lover, who had braved so much and won her so
gallantly, was turned to stone by this misfortune.  Remorse and aching
desolation oppressed him; from the moment of her death he scarcely ate
nor spoke; and in five days he also was dead, surely of a broken heart.
They buried him beside his mistress under a spreading tree, and put up a
wooden cross there, with a prayer that any Christians who might come to
the island would build a chapel to Jesus the Saviour.  The rest of the
party then repaired their little boat and put to sea; were cast upon the
coast of Morocco, captured by the Moors, and thrown into prison.  With
them in prison was a Spanish pilot named Juan de Morales, who listened
attentively to all they could tell him about the situation and condition
of the island, and who after his release communicated what he knew to
Prince Henry of Portugal.  The island of Madeira was thus rediscovered in
1418, and in 1425 was colonised by Prince Henry, who appointed as
Governor Bartolomeo de Perestrello, whose daughter was afterwards to
become the wife of Columbus.

So much for the outposts of the Old World.  Of the New World, about the
possibility of which Columbus is beginning to dream as he sails the
Mediterranean, there was no knowledge and hardly any thought.  Though new
in the thoughts of Columbus, it was very old in itself; generations of
men had lived and walked and spoken and toiled there, ever since men came
upon the earth; sun and shower, the thrill of the seasons, birth and life
and death, had been visiting it for centuries and centuries.  And it is
quite possible that, long before even the civilisation that produced
Columbus was in its dawn, men from the Old World had journeyed there.
There are two very old fragments of knowledge which indicate at least the
possibility of a Western World of which the ancients had knowledge.
There is a fragment, preserved from the fourth century before Christ, of
a conversation between Silenus and Midas, King of Phrygia, in which
Silenus correctly describes the Old World--Europe, Asia, and Africa--as
being surrounded by the sea, but also describes, far to the west of it, a
huge island, which had its own civilisation and its own laws, where the
animals and the men were of twice our stature, and lived for twice our
years.  There is also the story told by Plato of the island of Atlantis,
which was larger than Africa and Asia together, and which in an
earthquake disappeared beneath the waves, producing such a slime upon the
surface that no ship was able to navigate the sea in that place.  This is
the story which the priests of Sais told to Solon, and which was embodied
in the sacred inscriptions in their temples.  It is strange that any one
should think of this theory of the slime who had not seen or heard of the
Sargasso Sea--that great bank of floating seaweed that the ocean currents
collect and retain in the middle of the basin of the North Atlantic.

The Egyptians, the Tartars, the Canaanites, the Chinese, the Arabians,
the Welsh, and the Scandinavians have all been credited with the
colonisation of America; but the only race from the Old World which had
almost certainly been there were the Scandinavians.  In the year 983 the
coast of Greenland was visited by Eric the Red, the son of a Norwegian
noble, who was banished for the crime of murder.  Some fifteen years
later Eric’s son Lief made an expedition with thirty-five men and a ship
in the direction of the new land.  They came to a coast where there were
nothing but ice mountains having the appearance of slate; this country
they named Helluland--that is, Land of Slate.  This country is our
Newfoundland.  Standing out to sea again, they reached a level wooded
country with white sandy cliffs, which they called Markland, or Land of
Wood, which is our Nova Scotia.  Next they reached an island east of
Markland, where they passed the winter, and as one of their number who
had wandered some distance inland had found vines and grapes, Lief named
the country Vinland or Vine Land, which is the country we call New
England.  The Scandinavians continued to make voyages to the West and
South; and finally Thorfinn Karlsefne, an Icelander, made a great
expedition in the spring of 1007 with ships and material for
colonisation.  He made much progress to the southwards, and the Icelandic
accounts of the climate and soil and characteristics of the country leave
no doubt that Greenland and Nova Scotia were discovered and colonised at
this time.

It must be remembered, however, that then and in the lifetime of Columbus
Greenland was supposed to--be a promontory of the coast of Europe, and
was not connected in men’s minds with a western continent.  Its early
discovery has no bearing on the significance of Columbus’s achievement,
the greatness of which depends not on his having been the first man from
the Old World to set foot upon the shores of the New, but on the fact
that by pure faith and belief in his own purpose he did set out for and
arrive in a world where no man of his era or civilisation had ever before
set foot, or from which no wanderer who may have been blown there ever
returned.  It is enough to claim for him the merit of discovery in the
true sense of the word.  The New World was covered from the Old by a veil
of distance, of time and space, of absence, invisibility, virtual
non-existence; and he discovered it.



There is no reason to believe that before his twenty-fifth year Columbus
was anything more than a merchant or mariner, sailing before the mast,
and joining one ship after another as opportunities for good voyages
offered themselves.  A change took place later, probably after his
marriage, when he began to adapt himself rapidly to a new set of
surroundings, and to show his intrinsic qualities; but all the attempts
that have been made to glorify him socially--attempts, it must be
remembered, in which he himself and his sons were in after years the
leaders--are entirely mistaken.  That strange instinct for consistency
which makes people desire to see the outward man correspond, in terms of
momentary and arbitrary credit, with the inner and hidden man of the
heart, has in truth led to more biographical injustice than is fully
realised.  If Columbus had been the man some of his biographers would
like to make him out--the nephew or descendant of a famous French
Admiral, educated at the University of Pavia, belonging to a family of
noble birth and high social esteem in Genoa, chosen by King Rene to be
the commander of naval expeditions, learned in scientific lore, in the
classics, in astronomy and in cosmography, the friend and correspondent
of Toscanelli and other learned scientists--we should find it hard indeed
to forgive him the shifts and deceits that he practised.  It is far more
interesting to think of him as a common craftsman, of a lowly condition
and poor circumstances, who had to earn his living during the formative
period of his life by the simplest and hardest labour of the hand.  The
qualities that made him what he was were of a very simple kind, and his
character owed its strength, not to any complexity or subtlety of
training and education, but rather to that very bareness and simplicity
of circumstance that made him a man of single rather than manifold ideas.
He was not capable of seeing both sides of a question; he saw only one
side.  But he came of a great race; and it was the qualities of his race,
combined with this simplicity and even perhaps vacancy of mind, that gave
to his idea, when once the seed of it had lodged in his mind, so much
vigour in growth and room for expansion.  Think of him, then, at the age
of twenty-five as a typical plebeian Genoese, bearing all the
characteristic traits of his century and people--the spirit of adventure,
the love of gold and of power, a spirit of mysticism, and more than a
touch of crafty and elaborate dissimulation, when that should be

He had been at sea for ten or eleven years, making voyages to and from
Genoa, with an occasional spell ashore and plunge into the paternal
affairs, when in the year 1476 he found himself on board a Genoese vessel
which formed one of a convoy going, to Lisbon.  This convoy was attacked
off Cape St. Vincent by Colombo, or Colomb, the famous French corsair, of
whom Christopher himself has quite falsely been called a relative.  Only
two of the Genoese vessels escaped, and one of these two was the ship
which carried Columbus.  It arrived at Lisbon, where Columbus went ashore
and took up his abode.

This, so far as can be ascertained, is the truth about the arrival of
Columbus in Portugal.  The early years of an obscure man who leaps into
fame late in life are nearly always difficult to gather knowledge about,
because not only are the annals of the poor short and simple and in most
cases altogether unrecorded, but there is always that instinct, to which
I have already referred, to make out that the circumstances of a man who
late in life becomes great and remarkable were always, at every point in
his career, remarkable also.  We love to trace the hand of destiny
guiding her chosen people, protecting them from dangers, and preserving
them for their great moment.  It is a pleasant study, and one to which
the facts often lend themselves, but it leads to a vicious method of
biography which obscures the truth with legends and pretences that have
afterwards laboriously to be cleared away.  It was so in the case of
Columbus.  Before his departure on his first voyage of discovery there is
absolutely no temporary record of him except a few dates in notarial
registers.  The circumstances of his life and his previous conditions
were supplied afterwards by himself and his contemporaries; and both he
and they saw the past in the light of the present, and did their best to
make it fit a present so wonderful and miraculous.  The whole trend of
recent research on the subject of Columbus has been unfortunately in the
direction of proving the complete insincerity of his own speech and
writings about his early life, and the inaccuracy of Las Casas writings
his contemporary biographer, and the first historian of the West Indies.
Those of my readers, then, who are inclined to be impatient with the
meagreness of the facts with which I am presenting them, and the
disproportionate amount of theory to fact with regard to these early
years of Columbus, must remember three things.  First, that the only
record of the early years of Columbus was written long after those years
had passed away, and in circumstances which did not harmonise with them;
second, that there is evidence, both substantive and presumptive, that
much of those records, even though it came from the hands of Columbus and
his friends, is false and must be discarded; and third, that the only way
in which anything like the truth can be arrived at is by circumstantial
and presumptive evidence with regard to dates, names, places, and events
upon which the obscure life of Columbus impinged.  Columbus is known to
have written much about himself, but very little of it exists or remains
in his own handwriting.  It remains in the form of quotation by others,
all of whom had their reasons for not representing quite accurately what
was, it must be feared, not even itself a candid and accurate record.
The evidence for these very serious statements is the subject of
numberless volumes and monographs, which cannot be quoted here; for it is
my privilege to reap the results, and not to reproduce the material, of
the immense research and investigation to which in the last fifty years
the life of Columbus has been subjected.

We shall come to facts enough presently; in the meantime we have but the
vaguest knowledge of what Columbus did in Lisbon.  The one technical
possession which he obviously had was knowledge of the sea; he had also a
head on his shoulders, and plenty of judgment and common sense; he had
likely picked up some knowledge of cartography in his years at Genoa,
since (having abandoned wool-weaving) he probably wished to make progress
in the profession of the sea; and it is, therefore, believed that he
picked up a living in Lisbon by drawing charts and maps.  Such a living
would only be intermittent; a fact that is indicated by his periodic
excursions to sea again, presumably when funds were exhausted.  There
were other Genoese in Lisbon, and his own brother Bartholomew was with
him there for a time.  He may actually have been there when Columbus
arrived, but it was more probable that Columbus, the pioneer of the
family, seeing a better field for his brother’s talent in Lisbon than in
Genoa, sent for him when he himself was established there.  This
Bartholomew, of whom we shall see a good deal in the future, is merely an
outline at this stage of the story; an outline that will later be filled
up with human features and fitted with a human character; at present he
is but a brother of Christopher, with a rather bookish taste, a better
knowledge of cartography than Christopher possessed, and some little
experience of the book-selling trade.  He too made charts in Lisbon, and
sold books also, and no doubt between them the efforts of the brothers,
supplemented by the occasional voyages of Christopher, obtained them a
sufficient livelihood.  The social change, in the one case from the
society of Genoese wool-weavers, and in the other from the company of
merchant sailors, must have been very great; for there is evidence that
they began to make friends and acquaintances among a rather different
class than had been formerly accessible to them.  The change to a new
country also and to a new language makes a deep impression at the age of
twenty-five; and although Columbus in his sea-farings had been in many
ports, and had probably picked up a knowledge both of Portuguese and of
Spanish, his establishment in the Portuguese capital could not fail to
enlarge his outlook upon life.

There is absolutely no record of his circumstances in the first year of
his life at Lisbon, so we may look once more into the glass of
imagination and try to find a picture there.  It is very dim, very
minute, very, very far away.  There is the little shop in a steep Lisbon
street, somewhere near the harbour we may be sure, with the shadows of
the houses lying sharp on the white sunlight of the street; the cool
darkness of the shop, with its odour of vellum and parchment, its rolls
of maps and charts; and somewhere near by the sounds and commotion of the
wharves and the shipping.  Often, when there was a purchaser in the shop,
there would be talk of the sea, of the best course from this place to
that, of the entrance to this harbour and the other; talk of the western
islands too, of the western ocean, of the new astrolabe which the German
Muller of Konigsberg, or Regiomontanus, as they called him in Portugal,
had modified and improved.  And if there was sometimes an evening walk,
it would surely be towards the coast or on a hill above the harbour, with
a view of the sun being quenched in the sea and travelling down into the
unknown, uncharted West.



Columbus had not been long in Portugal before he was off again to sea,
this time on a longer voyage than any he had yet undertaken.  Our
knowledge of it depends on his own words as reported by Las Casas, and,
like so much other knowledge similarly recorded, is not to be received
with absolute certainty; but on the whole the balance of probability is
in favour of its truth.  The words in which this voyage is recorded are
given as a quotation from a letter of Columbus, and, stripped of certain
obvious interpolations of the historian, are as follows:--

     “In the month of February, and in the year 1477, I navigated as far
     as the island of Tile [Thule], a hundred leagues; and to this
     island, which is as large as England, the English, especially those
     of Bristol, go with merchandise; and when I was there the sea was
     not frozen over, although there were very high tides, so much so
     that in some parts the sea rose twenty-five ‘brazas’, and went down
     as much, twice during the day.”

The reasons for doubting that this voyage took place are due simply to
Columbus’s habit of being untruthful in regard to his own past doings,
and his propensity for drawing the long bow; and the reason that has been
accepted by most of his biographers who have denied the truth of this
statement is that, in the year 1492, when Columbus was addressing the
King and Queen of Spain on his qualifications as a navigator, and when he
wished to set forth his experience in a formidable light, he said nothing
about this voyage, but merely described his explorations as having
extended from Guinea on the south to England on the north.  A shrewd
estimate of Columbus’s character makes it indeed seem incredible that,
if he had really been in Iceland, he should not have mentioned the fact
on this occasion; and yet there is just one reason, also quite
characteristic of Columbus, that would account for the suppression.
It is just possible that when he was at Thule, by which he meant Iceland,
he may have heard of the explorations in the direction of Greenland and
Newfoundland; and that, although by other navigators these lands were
regarded as a part of the continent of Europe, he may have had some
glimmerings of an idea that they were part of land and islands in the
West; and he was much too jealous of his own reputation as the great and
only originator of the project for voyaging to the West, to give away any
hints that he was not the only person to whom such ideas had occurred.
There is deception and untruth somewhere; and one must make one’s choice
between regarding the story in the first place as a lie, or accepting it
as truth, and putting down Columbus’s silence about it on a later
occasion to a rare instinct of judicious suppression.  There are other
facts in his life, to which, we shall come later, that are in accordance
with this theory.  There is no doubt, moreover, that Columbus had a very
great experience of the sea, and was one of the greatest practical
seamen, if not the greatest, that has ever lived; and it would be foolish
to deny, except for the greatest reasons, that he made a voyage to the
far North, which was neither unusual at the time nor a very great
achievement for a seaman of his experience.

Christopher returned from these voyages, of which we know nothing except
the facts that he has given us, towards the end of 1477; and it was
probably in the next year that an event very important in his life and
career took place.  Hitherto there has been no whisper of love in that
arduous career of wool-weaving, sailoring, and map-making; and it is not
unlikely that his marriage represents the first inspiration of love in
his life, for he was, in spite of his southern birth, a cool-blooded man,
for whom affairs of the heart had never a very serious interest.  But at
Lisbon, where he began to find himself with some footing and place in the
world, and where the prospect of at least a livelihood began to open out
before him, his thoughts took that turn towards domesticity and family
life which marks a moment in the development of almost every man.  And
now, since he has at last to emerge from the misty environment of
sea-spray that has veiled him so long from our intimate sight, we may
take a close look at him as he was in this year 1478.

Unlike the southern Italians, he was fair in colouring; a man rather
above the middle height, large limbed, of a shapely breadth and
proportion, and of a grave and dignified demeanour.  His face was ruddy,
and inclined to be freckled under the exposure to the sun, his hair at
this age still fair and reddish, although in a few years later it turned
grey, and became white while he was still a young man.  His nose was
slightly aquiline, his face long and rather full; his eyes of a clear
blue, with sharply defined eyebrows--seamen’s eyes, which get an
unmistakable light in them from long staring into the sea distances.
Altogether a handsome and distinguished-looking young man, noticeable
anywhere, and especially among a crowd of swarthy Portuguese.  He was not
a lively young man; on the contrary, his manner was rather heavy, and
even at times inclined to be pompous; he had a very good opinion of
himself, had the clear calculating head and tidy intellectual methods of
the able mariner; was shrewd and cautious--in a word, took himself and
the world very seriously.  A strictly conventional man, as the
conventions of his time and race went; probably some of his gayer and
lighter-hearted contemporaries thought him a dull enough dog, who would
not join in a carouse or a gallant adventure, but would probably get the
better of you if he could in any commercial deal.  He was a great
stickler for the observances of religion; and never a Sunday or feast-day
passed, when he was ashore, without finding him, like the dutiful son of
the Church that he was, hearing Mass and attending at Benediction.  Not,
indeed, a very attractive or inspiring figure of a man; not the man whose
company one would likely have sought very much, or whose conversation one
would have found very interesting.  A man rather whose character was cast
in a large and plain mould, without those many facets which add so much
to the brightness of human intercourse, and which attract and reflect the
light from other minds; a man who must be tried in large circumstances,
and placed in a big setting, if his qualities are to be seen to advantage
.  .  .  .  I seem to see him walking up from the shop near the harbour
at Lisbon towards the convent of Saints; walking gravely and firmly, with
a dignified demeanour, with his best clothes on, and glad, for the
moment, to be free of his sea acquaintances, and to be walking in the
direction of that upper-class world after which he has a secret hankering
in his heart.  There are a great many churches in Lisbon nearer his house
where he might hear Mass on Sundays; but he prefers to walk up to the
rich and fashionable convent of Saints, where everybody is well dressed,
and where those kindling eyes of his may indulge a cool taste for
feminine beauty.

While the chapel bell is ringing other people are hurrying through the
sunny Lisbon streets to Mass at the convent.  Among the fashionable
throng are two ladies, one young, one middle-aged; they separate at the
church door, and the younger one leaves her mother and takes her place in
the convent choir.  This is Philippa Moniz, who lives alone with her
mother in Lisbon, and amuses herself with her privileges as a cavaliera,
or dame, in one of the knightly orders attached to the rich convent of
Saints.  Perhaps she has noticed the tall figure of the young Genoese in
the strangers’ part of the convent, perhaps not; but his roving blue eye
has noticed her, and much is to come of it.  The young Genoese continues
his regular and exemplary attendance at the divine Office, the young lady
is zealous in observing her duties in the choir; some kind friend
introduces them; the audacious young man makes his proposals, and,
in spite of the melancholy protests of the young lady’s exceedingly
respectable and highly-connected relatives, the young people are
betrothed and actually married before the elders have time to recover
breath from their first shock at the absurdity of the suggestion.

There is a very curious fact in connection with his marriage that is
worthy of our consideration.  In all his voluminous writings, letters,
memoirs, and journals, Columbus never once mentions his wife.  His sole
reference to her is in his will, made at Valladolid many years later,
long after her death; and is contained in the two words “my wife.”
He ordains that a chapel shall be erected and masses said for the repose
of the souls of his father, his mother, and his wife.  He who wrote so
much, did not write of her; he who boasted so much, never boasted of her;
he who bemoaned so much, never bemoaned her.  There is a blank silence
on his part about everything connected with his marriage and his wife.
I like to think that it was because this marriage, which incidentally
furnished him with one of the great impulses of his career, was in itself
placid and uneventful, and belongs to that mass of happy days that do not
make history.  Columbus was not a passionate man.  I think that love had
a very small place in his life, and that the fever of passion was with
him brief and soon finished with; but I am sure he was affectionate, and
grateful for any affection and tenderness that were bestowed upon him.
He was much away too, at first on his voyages to Guinea and afterwards on
the business of his petitions to the Portuguese and Spanish Courts; and
one need not be a cynic to believe that these absences did nothing to
lessen the affection between him and his wife.  Finally, their married
life was a short one; she died within ten years, and I am sure did not
outlive his affections; so that there may be something solemn, some
secret memories of the aching joy and sorrow that her coming into his
life and passing out of it brought him, in this silence of Columbus
concerning his wife.

This marriage was, in the vulgar idiom of to-day, a great thing for
Columbus.  It not only brought him a wife; it brought him a home,
society, recognition, and a connection with maritime knowledge and
adventure that was of the greatest importance to him.  Philippa Moniz
Perestrello was the daughter of Bartolomeo Perestrello, who had been
appointed hereditary governor of the island of Porto Santo on its
colonisation by Prince Henry in 1425 and who had died there in 1457.
Her grandfather was Gil Ayres Moniz, who was secretary to the famous
Constable Pereira in the reign of John I, and is chiefly interesting to
us because he founded the chapel of the “Piedad” in the Carmelite
Monastery at Lisbon, in which the Moniz family had the right of interment
for ever, and in which the body of Philippa, after her brief pilgrimage
in this world was over, duly rested; and whence her son ordered its
disinterment and re-burial in the church of Santa Clara in San Domingo.
Philippa’s mother, Isabel Moniz, was the second or third wife of
Perestrello; and after her husband’s death she had come to live in
Lisbon.  She had another daughter, Violante by name, who had married one
Mulier, or Muliartes, in Huelva; and a son named Bartolomeo, who was the
heir to the governorship of Porto Santo; but as he was only a little boy
at the time of his father’s death his mother ceded the governorship to
Pedro Correa da Cunha, who had married Iseult, the daughter of old
Bartolomeo by his first wife.  The governorship was thus kept in the
family during the minority of Bartolomeo, who resumed it later when he
came of age.

This Isabel, mother of Philippa, was a very important acquaintance indeed
for Columbus.  It must be noted that he left the shop and poor
Bartholomew to take care of themselves or each other, and went to live in
the house of his mother-in-law.  This was a great social step for the
wool-weaver of Genoa; and it was probably the result of a kind of
compromise with his wife’s horrified relatives at the time of her
marriage.  It was doubtless thought impossible for her to go and live
over the chart-maker’s shop; and as you can make charts in one house as
well as another, it was decided that Columbus should live with his
mother-in-law, and follow his trade under her roof.  Columbus, in fact,
seems to have been fortunate in securing the favour of his female
relatives-in-law, and it was probably owing to the championship of
Philippa’s mother that a marriage so much to his advantage ever took
place at all.  His wife had many distinguished relatives in the
neighbourhood of Lisbon; her cousin was archbishop at this very time;
but I can neither find that their marriage was celebrated with the
archiepiscopal blessing or that he ever got much help or countenance from
the male members of the Moniz family.  Archbishops even today do not much
like their pretty cousins marrying a man of Columbus’s position, whether
you call him a woolweaver, a sailor, a map-maker, or a bookseller.
“Adventurer” is perhaps the truest description of him; and the word was
as much distrusted in the best circles in Lisbon in the fifteenth century
as it is to-day.

Those of his new relatives, however, who did get to know him soon began
to see that Philippa had not made such a bad bargain after all.  With the
confidence and added belief in himself that the recognition and
encouragement of those kind women brought him, Columbus’s mind and
imagination expanded; and I think it was probably now that he began to
wonder if all his knowledge and seamanship, his quite useful smattering
of cartography and cosmography, his real love of adventure, and all his
dreams and speculations concerning the unknown and uncharted seas, could
not be turned to some practical account.  His wife’s step-sister Iseult
and her husband had, moreover, only lately returned to Lisbon from their
long residence in Porto Santo; young Bartolomeo Perestrello, her brother,
was reigning there in their stead, and no doubt sending home interesting
accounts of ships and navigators that put in at Madeira; and all the
circumstances would tend to fan the spark of Columbus’s desire to have
some adventure and glory of his own on the high seas.  He would wish
to show all these grandees, with whom his marriage had brought
him acquainted, that you did not need to be born a Perestrello
--or Pallastrelli, as the name was in its original Italian form--to make
a name in the world.  Donna Isabel, moreover, was never tired of talking
about Porto Santo and her dead husband, and of all the voyages and sea
adventures that had filled his life.  She was obviously a good teller of
tales, and had all the old history and traditions of Madeira at her
fingers’ ends; the story of Robert Machin and Anne Dorset; the story of
the isle of Seven Cities; and the black cloud on the horizon that turned
out in the end to be Madeira.  She told Christopher how her husband, when
he had first gone to Porto Santo, had taken there a litter of rabbits,
and how the rabbits had so increased that in two seasons they had eaten
up everything on the island, and rendered it uninhabitable for some time.

She brought out her husband’s sea-charts, memoranda, and log-books,
the sight of which still farther inflamed Christopher’s curiosity and
ambition.  The great thing in those days was to discover something, if it
was only a cape down the African coast or a rock in the Atlantic.  The
key to fame, which later took the form of mechanical invention, and later
still of discovery in the region of science, took the form then of actual
discovery of parts of the earth’s surface.  The thing was in the air;
news was coming in every day of something new seen, something new
charted.  If others had done so much, and the field was still half
unexplored, could not he do something also?  It was not an unlikely
thought to occur to the mind of a student of sea charts and horizons.



The next step in Columbus’s career was a move to Porto Santo, which
probably took place very soon after his marriage--that is to say, in the
year 1479.  It is likely that he had the chance of making a voyage there;
perhaps even of commanding a ship, for his experience of the sea and
skill as a navigator must by this time have raised him above the rank of
an ordinary seaman; and in that case nothing would be more natural than
that he should take his young wife with him to visit her brother
Bartolomeo, and to see the family property.  It is one of the charms of
the seaman’s profession that he travels free all over the world; and if
he has no house or other fixed possessions that need to be looked after
he has the freedom of the world, and can go where he likes free of cost.
Porto Santo and Madeira, lying in the track of the busiest trade on the
Atlantic coast, would provide Columbus with an excellent base from which
to make other voyages; so it was probably with a heart full of eager
anticipation for the future, and sense of quiet happiness in the present,
that in the year 1479 Signor Cristoforo Colombo (for he did not yet call
himself Senor Cristoval Colon) set out for Porto Santo--a lonely rock
some miles north of Madeira.  Its southern shore is a long sweeping bay
of white sand, with a huddle of sand-hills beyond, and cliffs and peaks
of basalt streaked with lava fringing the other shores.  When Columbus
and his bride arrived there the place was almost as bare as it is to-day.
There were the governor’s house; the settlement of Portuguese who worked
in the mills and sugar-fields; the mills themselves, with the cultivated
sugar-fields behind them; and the vineyards, with the dwarf Malmsey vines
pegged down to the ground, which Prince Henry had imported from Candia
fifty years before.  The forest of dragon-trees that had once covered the
island was nearly all gone.  The wood had all been used either for
building, making boats, or for fuel; and on the fruit of the few trees
that were left a herd of pigs was fattened.  There was frequent
communication by boat with Madeira, which was the chief of all the
Atlantic islands, and the headquarters of the sugar trade; and Porto
Santo itself was a favourite place of call for passing ships.  So that it
was by no means lonely for Christopher Columbus and his wife, even if
they had not had the society of the governor and his settlement.

We can allow him about three years in Porto Santo, although for a part of
this time at least he must have been at sea.  I think it not unlikely
that it was the happiest time of his life.  He was removed from the
uncomfortable environment of people who looked down upon him because of
his obscure birth; he was in an exquisite climate; and living by the
sea-shore, as a sailor loves to do; he got on well with Bartolomeo, who
was no doubt glad enough of the company of this grave sailor who had
seen so much and had visited so many countries; above all he had his
wife there, his beautiful, dear, proud Philippa, all to himself, and out
of reach of those abominable Portuguese noblemen who paid so much
attention to her and so little to him, and made him so jealous; and
there was a whispered promise of some one who was coming to make him
happier still.  It is a splendid setting, this, for the sea adventurer;
a charming picture that one has of him there so long ago, walking on the
white shores of the great sweeping bay, with the glorious purple
Atlantic sparkling and thundering on the sands, as it sparkles and
thunders to-day.  A place empty and vivid, swept by the mellow winds;
silent, but for the continuous roar of the sea; still, but for the
scuttling of the rabbits among the sand-hills and the occasional passage
of a figure from the mills up to the sugar-fields; but brilliant with
sunshine and colour and the bright environment of the sea.  It was upon
such scenes that he looked during this happy pause in his life; they
were the setting of Philippa’s dreams and anxieties as the time of
motherhood drew near; and it was upon them that their little son first
opened his eyes, and with the boom of the Atlantic breakers that he
first mingled his small voice.

It is but a moment of rest and happiness; for Christopher the scene is
soon changed, and he must set forth upon a voyage again, while Philippa
is left, with a new light in her eyes, to watch over the atom that wakes
and weeps and twists and struggles and mews, and sleeps again, in her
charge.  Sleep well, little son!  Yet a little while, and you too shall
make voyages and conquests; new worlds lie waiting for you, who are so
greatly astonished at this Old World; far journeys by land and sea, and
the company of courtiers and kings; and much honour from the name and
deeds of him who looked into your eyes with a laugh and, a sob, and was
so very large and overshadowing!  But with her who quietly sings to you,
whose hands soothe and caress you, in whose eyes shines that wonderful
light of mother’s love--only a little while longer.

While Diego, as this son was christened, was yet only a baby in his
cradle, Columbus made an important voyage to the, coast of Guinea as all
the western part of the African continent was then called.  His solid and
practical qualities were by this time beginning to be recognised even by
Philippa’s haughty family, and it was possibly through the interest of
her uncle, Pedro Noronhas, a distinguished minister of the King of
Portugal, that he got the command of a caravel in the expedition which
set out for Guinea in December 1481.  A few miles from Cape Coast Castle,
and on the borders of the Dutch colony, there are to-day the ruined
remains of a fort; and it is this fort, the fortress of St. George, that
the expedition was sent out to erect.  On the 11th of December the little
fleet set sail for [from?  D.W.] Lisbon--ten caravels, and two barges or
lighters laden with the necessary masonry and timber-work for the fort.
Columbus was in command of one of the caravels, and the whole fleet was
commanded by the Portuguese Admiral Azumbaga.  They would certainly see
Porto Santo and Madeira on their way south, although they did not call
there; and Philippa was no doubt looking out for them, and watching from
the sand-hills the fleet of twelve ships going by in the offing.  They
called at Cape Verde, where the Admiral was commissioned to present one
of the negro kings with some horses and hawks, and incidentally to obtain
his assent to a treaty.  On the 19th of January 1482, having made a very
good voyage, they, landed just beyond the Cape of the Three Points, and
immediately set about the business of the expedition.

There was a state reception, with Admiral Azumbaga walking in front in
scarlet and brocade, followed by his captains, Columbus among them,
dressed in gorgeous tunics and cloaks with golden collars and, well
hidden beneath their finery, good serviceable cuirasses.  The banner of
Portugal was ceremoniously unfurled and dis played from the top of a tall
tree.  An altar was erected and consecrated by the chaplain to the
expedition, and a mass was sung for the repose of the soul of Prince
Henry.  The Portugal contingent were then met by Caramansa, the king of
the country, who came, surrounded by a great guard of blacks armed with
assegais, their bodies scantily decorated with monkey fur and palm
leaves.  The black monarch must have presented a handsome appearance,
for his arms and legs were decked with gold bracelets and rings, he had
a kind of dog-collar fitted with bells round his neck, and some pieces of
gold were daintily twisted into his beard.  With these aids to diplomacy,
and doubtless also with the help of a dram or two of spirits or of the
wine of Oporto, the treaty was soon concluded, and a very shrewd stroke
of business accomplished for the King of Portugal; for it gave him the
sole right of exchanging gaudy rubbish from Portugal for the precious
gold of Ethiopia.  When the contents of the two freight-ships had been
unloaded they were beached and broken up by the orders of King John, who
wished it to be thought that they had been destroyed in the whirlpools of
that dangerous sea, and that the navigation of those rough waters was
only safe for the caravels of the Navy.  The fort was built in twenty
days, and the expedition returned, laden with gold and ivory; Admiral
Azumbaga remained behind in command of the garrison.

This voyage, which was a bold and adventurous one for the time, may be
regarded as the first recognition of Columbus as a man of importance,
for the expedition was manned and commanded by picked men; so it was for
all reasons a very fortunate one for him, although the possession of the
dangerous secret as to the whereabouts of this valuable territory might
have proved to be not very convenient to him in the future.

Columbus went back to Porto Santo with his ambitions thoroughly kindled.
He had been given a definite command in the Portuguese Navy; he had been
sailing with a fleet; he had been down to the mysterious coast of Africa;
he had been trafficking with strange tribes; he had been engaged in a
difficult piece of navigation such as he loved; and on the long dreamy
days of the voyage home, the caravels furrowing the blue Atlantic before
the steady trade-wind, he determined that he would find some way of
putting his knowledge to use, and of earning distinction for himself.
Living, as he had been lately, in Atlantic seaports overlooking the
western ocean it is certain that the idea of discovering something in
that direction occupied him more and more.  What it was that he was to
discover was probably very vague in his mind, and was likely not
designated by any name more exact than “lands.”  In after years he tried
to show that it was a logical and scientific deduction which led him to
go and seek the eastern shore of the Indian continent by sailing west;
but we may be almost certain that at this time he thought of no such
thing.  He had no exact scientific knowledge at this date.  His map
making had taught him something, and naturally he had kept his ears open,
and knew all the gossip and hearsay about the islands of the West; and
there gradually grew in his mind the intuition or conviction--I refuse to
call it an opinion--that, over that blue verge of the West, there was
land to be found.  How this seed of conviction first lodged in his mind
it would be impossible to say; in any one of the steps through which we
have followed him, it might have taken its root; but there it was,
beginning to occupy his mind very seriously indeed; and he began to look
out, as all men do who wish to act upon faith or conviction which they
cannot demonstrate to another person, for some proofs that his conviction
was a sound one.

And now, just at the moment when he needs it most, comes an incident
that, to a man of his religious and superstitious habit, seems like the
pointing finger of Providence.  The story of the shipwrecked pilot has
been discredited by nearly all the modern biographers of Columbus,
chiefly because it does not fit in with their theory of his scientific
studies and the alleged bearing of these on his great discovery; but it
is given by Las Casas, who says that it was commonly believed by
Columbus’s entourage at Hispaniola.  Moreover, amid all the tangles of
theory and argument in which the achievement of Columbus has been
involved, this original story of shipwrecked mariners stands out with a
strength and simplicity that cannot be entirely disregarded by the
historian who permits himself some light of imagination by which to work.
It is more true to life and to nature that Columbus should have received
his last impulse, the little push that was to set his accumulated energy
and determination in motion, from a thing of pure chance, than that he
should have built his achievement up in a logical superstructure resting
on a basis of profound and elaborate theory.

In the year following Columbus’s return from Guinea, then, he, and
probably his family, had gone over to Madeira from Porto Santo, and were
staying there.  While they were there a small ship put in to Madeira,
much battered by storms and bad weather, and manned by a crew of five
sick mariners.  Columbus, who was probably never far from the shore at
Funchal when a ship came into the harbour, happened to see them.  Struck
by their appearance, and finding them in a quite destitute and grievously
invalid condition, he entertained them in his house until some other
provision could be made for them.  But they were quite worn out.  One by
one they succumbed to weakness and illness, until one only, a pilot from
Huelva, was left.  He also was sinking, and when it was obvious that his
end was near at hand, he beckoned his good host to his bedside, and, in
gratitude for all his kindness, imparted to him some singular knowledge
which he had acquired, and with which, if he had lived, he had hoped to
win distinction for himself.

The pilot’s story, in so far as it has been preserved, and taking the
mean of four contemporary accounts of it, was as follows.  This man,
whose name is doubtful, but is given as Alonso Sanchez, was sailing on a
voyage from one of the Spanish ports to England or Flanders.  He had a
crew of seventeen men.  When they had got well out to sea a severe
easterly gale sprung up, which drove the vessel before it to the
westward.  Day after day and week after week, for twenty-eight days, this
gale continued.  The islands were all left far behind, and the ship was
carried into a region far beyond the limits of the ocean marked on the
charts.  At last they sighted some islands, upon one of which they landed
and took in wood and water.  The pilot took the bearings of the island,
in so far as he was able, and made some observations, the only one of
which that has remained being that the natives went naked; and, the wind
having changed, set forth on his homeward voyage.  This voyage was long
and painful.  The wind did not hold steady from the west; the pilot and
his crew had a very hazy notion of where they were; their dead reckoning
was confused; their provisions fell short; and one by one the crew
sickened and died until they were reduced to five or six--the ones who,
worn out by sickness and famine, and the labours of working the ship
short-handed and in their enfeebled condition, at last made the island of
Madeira, and cast anchor in the beautiful bay of Funchal, only to die
there.  All these things we may imagine the dying man relating in
snatches to his absorbed listener; who felt himself to be receiving a
pearl of knowledge to be guarded and used, now that its finder must
depart upon the last and longest voyage of human discovery.  Such
observations as he had made--probably a few figures giving the bearings
of stars, an account of dead reckoning, and a quite useless and
inaccurate chart or map--the pilot gave to his host; then, having
delivered his soul of its secret, he died.  This is the story; not an
impossible or improbable one in its main outlines.  Whether the pilot
really landed on one of the Antilles is extremely doubtful, although it
is possible.  Superstitious and storm-tossed sailors in those days were
only too ready to believe that they saw some of the fabled islands of the
Atlantic; and it is quite possible that the pilot simply announced that
he had seen land, and that the details as to his having actually set foot
upon it were added later.  That does not seem to me important in so far
as it concerns Columbus.  Whether it were true or not, the man obviously
believed it; and to the mind of Columbus, possessed with an idea and a
blind faith in something which could not be seen, the whole incident
would appear in the light of a supernatural sign.  The bit of paper or
parchment with the rude drawing on it, even although it were the drawing
of a thing imagined and not of a thing seen, would still have for him a
kind of authority that he would find it hard to ignore.  It seems
unnecessary to disbelieve this story.  It is obviously absurd to regard
it as the sole origin of Columbus’s great idea; it probably belongs to
that order of accidents, small and unimportant in themselves, which are
so often associated with the beginnings of mighty events.  Walking on the
shore at Madeira or Porto Santo, his mind brooding on the great and
growing idea, Columbus would remember one or two other instances which,
in the light of his growing conviction and know ledge, began to take on a
significant hue.  He remembered that his wife’s relative, Pedro Correa,
who had come back from Porto Santo while Columbus was living in Lisbon,
had told him about some strange flotsam that came in upon the shores of
the island.  He had seen a piece of wood of a very dark colour curiously
carved, but not with any tool of metal; and some great canes had also
come ashore, so big that, every joint would hold a gallon of wine.  These
canes, which were utterly unlike any thing known in Europe or the islands
of the Atlantic, had been looked upon as such curiosities that they had
been sent to the King at Lisbon, where they remained, and where Columbus
himself afterwards saw them.  Two other stories, which he heard also at
this time, went to strengthen his convictions.  One was the tale of
Martin Vincenti, a pilot in the Portuguese Navy, who had found in the
sea, four hundred and twenty leagues to the west of Cape St. Vincent,
another piece of wood, curiously carved, that had evidently not been
laboured with an iron instrument.  Columbus also remembered that the
inhabitants of the Azores had more than once found upon their coasts the
trunks of huge pine-trees, and strangely shaped canoes carved out of
single logs; and, most significant of all, the people of Flares had taken
from the water the bodies of two dead men, whose faces were of a strange
broad shape, and whose features differed from those of any known race of
mankind.  All these objects, it was supposed, were brought by westerly
winds to the shores of Europe; it was not till long afterwards, when the
currents of the Atlantic came to be studied, that the presence of such
flotsam came to be attributed to the ocean currents, deflected by the
Cape of Good Hope and gathered in the Gulf of Mexico, which are sprayed
out across the Atlantic.

The idea once fixed in his mind that there was land at a not impossible
distance to the west, and perhaps a sea-road to the shores of Asia
itself, the next thing to be done, was to go and discover it.  Rather a
formidable task for a man without money, a foreigner in a strange
land, among people who looked down upon him because of his obscure birth,
and with no equipment except a knowledge of the sea, a great mastery of
the art and craft of seamanship, a fearless spirit of adventure, and an
inner light!  Some one else would have to be convinced before anything
could be done; somebody who would provide ships and men and money and
provisions.  Altogether rather a large order; for it was not an unusual
thing in those days for master mariners, tired of the shore, to suggest
to some grandee or other the desirability of fitting out a ship or two to
go in search of the isle of St. Brandon, or to look up Antilia, or the
island of the Seven Cities.  It was very hard to get an audience even for
such a reasonable scheme as that; but to suggest taking a flotilla
straight out to the west and into the Sea of Darkness, down that curving
hill of the sea which it might be easy enough to slide down, but up which
it was known that no ship could ever climb again, was a thing that hardly
any serious or well-informed person would listen to.  A young man from
Genoa, without a knowledge either of the classics or of the Fathers, and
with no other argument except his own fixed belief and some vague talk
about bits of wood and shipwrecked mariners, was not the person to
inspire the capitalists of Portugal.  Yet the thing had to be done.
Obviously it could not be done at Porto Santo, where there were no ships
and no money.  Influence must be used; and Columbus knew that his
proposals, if they were to have even a chance of being listened to, must
be presented in some high-flown and elaborate form, giving reasons and
offering inducements and quoting authorities.  He would have to get some
one to help him in that; he would have to get up some scientific facts;
his brother Bartholomew could help him, and some of those disagreeable
relatives-in-law must also be pressed into the service of the Idea.
Obviously the first thing was to go back to Lisbon; which accordingly
Columbus did, about the year 1483.



The man to whom Columbus proposed to address his request for means with
which to make a voyage of discovery was no less a person than the new
King of Portugal.  Columbus was never a man of petty or small ideas; if
he were going to do a thing at all, he went about it in a large and
comprehensive way; and all his life he had a way of going to the
fountainhead, and of making flights and leaps where other men would only
climb or walk, that had much to do with his ultimate success.  King John,
moreover, had shown himself thoroughly sympathetic to the spirit of
discovery; Columbus, as we have seen, had already been employed in a
trusted capacity in one of the royal expeditions; and he rightly thought
that, since he had to ask the help of some one in his enterprise, he
might as well try to enlist the Crown itself in the service of his great
Idea.  He was not prepared, however, to go directly to the King and ask
for ships; his proposal would have to be put in a way that would appeal
to the royal ambition, and would also satisfy the King that there was
really a destination in view for the expedition.  In other words Columbus
had to propose to go somewhere; it would not do to say that he was going
west into the Atlantic Ocean to look about him.  He therefore devoted all
his energies to putting his proposal on what is called a business
footing, and expressing his vague, sublime Idea in common and practical

The people who probably helped him most in this were his brother
Bartholomew and Martin Behaim, the great authority on scientific
navigation, who had been living in Lisbon for some time and with whom
Columbus was acquainted.  Behaim, who was at this time about forty eight
years of age, was born at Nuremberg, and was a pupil of Regiomontanus,
the great German astronomer.  A very interesting man, this, if we could
decipher his features and character; no mere star-gazing visionary, but a
man of the world, whose scientific lore was combined with a wide and
liberal experience of life.  He was not only learned in cosmography and
astronomy, but he had a genius for mechanics and made beautiful
instruments; he was a merchant also, and combined a little business with
his scientific travels.  He had been employed at Lisbon in adapting the
astrolabe of Regiomontanus for the use of sailors at sea; and in these
labours he was assisted by two people who were destined to have a weighty
influence on the career of Columbus--Doctors Rodrigo and Joseph,
physicians or advisers to the King, and men of great academic reputation.
There was nothing known about cosmography or astronomy that Behaim did
not know; and he had just come back from an expedition on which he had
been despatched, with Rodrigo and Joseph, to take the altitude of the sun
in Guinea.

Columbus was not the man to neglect his opportunities, and there can be
no doubt that as soon as his purpose had established itself in his mind
he made use of every opportunity that presented itself for improving his
meagre scientific knowledge, in order that his proposal might be set
forth in a plausible form.  In other words, he got up the subject.  The
whole of his geographical reading with regard to the Indies up to this
time had been in the travels of Marco Polo; the others--whose works he
quoted from so freely in later years were then known to him only by name,
if at all.  Behaim, however, could tell him a good deal about the
supposed circumference of the earth, the extent of the Asiatic continent,
and so on.  Every new fact that Columbus heard he seized and pressed into
the service of his Idea; where there was a choice of facts, or a
difference of opinion between scientists, he chose the facts that were
most convenient, and the opinions that fitted best with his own beliefs.
The very word “Indies” was synonymous with unbounded wealth; there
certainly would be riches to tempt the King with; and Columbus, being a
religious man, hit also on the happy idea of setting forth the spiritual
glory of carrying the light of faith across the Sea of Darkness, and
making of the heathen a heritage for the Christian Church.  So that, what
with one thing and another, he soon had his proposals formally arranged.

Imagine him, then, actually at Court, and having an audience of the King,
who could scarcely believe his ears.  Here was a man, of whom he knew
nothing but that his conduct of a caravel had been well spoken of in the
recent expedition to Guinea, actually proposing to sail out west into the
Atlantic and to cross the unknown part of the world.  Certainly his
proposals seemed plausible, but still--.  The earth was round, said
Columbus, and therefore there was a way from East to West and from West
to East.  The prophet Esdras, a scientific authority that even His
Majesty would hardly venture to doubt, had laid it down that only
one-seventh of the earth was covered by waters.  From this fact Columbus
deduced that the maritime space extending westward between the shores of
Europe and eastern coast of Asia could not be large; and by sailing
westward he proposed to reach certain lands of which he claimed to have
knowledge.  The sailors’ tales, the logs of driftwood, the dead bodies,
were all brought into the proposals; in short, if His Majesty would grant
some ships, and consent to making Columbus Admiral over all the islands
that he might discover, with full viceregal state, authority, and profit,
he would go and discover them.

There are two different accounts of what the King said when this proposal
was made to him.  According to some authorities, John was impressed by
Columbus’s proposals, and inclined to provide him with the necessary
ships, but he could not assent to all the titles and rewards which
Columbus demanded as a price for his services.  Barros, the Portuguese
historian, on the other hand, represents that the whole idea was too
fantastic to be seriously entertained by the King for a moment, and that
although he at once made up his mind to refuse the request he preferred
to delegate his refusal to a commission.  Whatever may be the truth as to
King John’s opinions, the commission was certainly appointed, and
consisted of three persons, to wit: Master Rodrigo, Master Joseph the
Jew, and the Right Reverend Cazadilla, Bishop of Ceuta.

Before these three learned men must Columbus now appear, a little less
happy in his mind, and wishing that he knew more Latin.  Master Rodrigo,
Master Joseph the Jew, the Right Reverend Cazadilla: three pairs of cold
eyes turned rather haughtily on the Genoese adventurer; three brains much
steeped in learning, directed in judgment on the Idea of a man with no
learning at all.  The Right Reverend Cazadilla, being the King’s
confessor, and a bishop into the bargain, could speak on that matter of
converting the heathen; and he was of opinion that it could not be done.
Joseph the Jew, having made voyages, and worked with Behaim at the
astrolabe, was surely an authority on navigation; and he was of opinion
that it could not be done.  Rodrigo, being also a very learned man, had
read many books which Columbus had not read; and he was of opinion that
it could not be done.  Three learned opinions against one Idea; the Idea
is bound to go.  They would no doubt question Columbus on the scientific
aspect of the matter, and would soon discover his grievous lack of
academic knowledge.  They would quote fluently passages from writers that
he had not heard of; if he had not heard of them, they seemed to imply,
no wonder he made such foolish proposals.  Poor Columbus stands there
puzzled, dissatisfied, tongue-tied.  He cannot answer these wiseacres in
their own learned lingo; what they say, or what they quote, may be true
or it may not; but it has nothing to do with his Idea.  If he opens his
mouth to justify himself, they refute him with arguments that he does not
understand; there is a wall between them.  More than a wall; there is a
world between them!  It is his ‘credo’ against their ‘ignoro’; it is, his
‘expecto’ against their ‘non video’.  Yet in his ‘credo’ there lies a
power of which they do not dream; and it rings out in a trumpet note
across the centuries, saluting the life force that opposes its
irresistible “I will” to the feeble “Thou canst not” of the worldly-wise.
Thus, in about the year 1483, did three learned men sit in judgment upon
our ignorant Christopher.  Three learned men: Doctors Rodrigo, Joseph the
Jew, and the Right Reverend Cazadilla, Bishop of Ceuta; three risen,
stuffed to the eyes and ears with learning; stuffed so full indeed that
eyes and ears are closed with it.  And three men, it would appear, wholly
destitute of mother-wit.

After all his preparations this rebuff must have been a serious blow to
Columbus.  It was not his only trouble, moreover.  During the last year
he had been earning nothing; he was already in imagination the Admiral of
the Ocean Seas; and in the anticipation of the much higher duties to
which he hoped to be devoted it is not likely that he would continue at
his humble task of making maps and charts.  The result was that he got
into debt, and it was absolutely necessary that something should be done.
But a darker trouble had also almost certainly come to him about this
time.  Neither the day nor the year of Philippa’s death is known;
but it is likely that it occurred soon after Columbus’s failure at the
Portuguese Court, and immediately before his departure into Spain.  That
anonymous life, fulfilling itself so obscurely in companionship and
motherhood, as softly as it floated upon the page of history, as softly
fades from it again.  Those kind eyes, that encouraging voice, that
helping hand and friendly human soul are with him no longer; and after
the interval of peace and restful growth that they afforded Christopher
must strike his tent and go forth upon another stage of his pilgrimage
with a heavier and sterner heart.

Two things are left to him: his son Diego, now an articulate little
creature with character and personality of his own, and with strange,
heart-breaking reminiscences of his mother in voice and countenance and
manner--that is one possession; the other is his Idea.  Two things alive
and satisfactory, amid the ruin and loss of other possessions; two
reasons for living and prevailing.  And these two possessions Columbus
took with him when he set out for Spain in the year 1485.

His first care was to take little Diego to the town of Huelva, where
there lived a sister of Philippa’s who had married a Spaniard named
Muliartes.  This done, he was able to devote himself solely to the
furtherance of his Idea.  For this purpose he went to Seville, where he
attached himself for a little while to a group of his countrymen who were
settled there, among them Antonio and Alessandro Geraldini, and made such
momentary living as was possible to him by his old trade.  But the Idea
would not sleep.  He talked of nothing else; and as men do who talk of an
idea that possesses them wholly, and springs from the inner light of
faith, he interested and impressed many of his hearers.  Some of them
suggested one thing, some another; but every one was agreed that it would
be a good thing if he could enlist the services of the great Count
(afterwards Duke) of Medini Celi, who had a palace at Rota, near Cadiz.

This nobleman was one of the most famous of the grandees of Spain, and
lived in mighty state upon his territory along the sea-shore, serving the
Crown in its wars and expeditions with the power and dignity of an ally
rather than of a subject.  His domestic establishment was on a princely
scale, filled with chamberlains, gentlemen-at-arms, knights, retainers,
and all the panoply of social dignity; and there was also place in his
household for persons of merit and in need of protection.  To this great
man came Columbus with his Idea.  It attracted the Count, who was a judge
of men and perhaps of ideas also; and Columbus, finding some hope at last
in his attitude, accepted the hospitality offered to him, and remained at
Rota through the winter of 1485-86.  He had not been very hopeful when he
arrived there, and had told the Count that he had thought of going to the
King of France and asking for help from him; but the Count, who found
something respectable and worthy of consideration in the Idea of a man
who thought nothing of a journey in its service from one country to
another and one sovereign to another, detained him, and played with the
Idea himself.  Three or four caravels were nothing to the Count of Medina
Eeli; but on the other hand the man was a grandee and a diplomat, with a
nice sense of etiquette and of what was due to a reigning house.  Either
there was nothing in this Idea, in which case his caravels would be
employed to no purpose, or there was so much in it that it was an
undertaking, not merely for the Count of Medina Celi, but for the Crown
of Castile.  Lands across the ocean, and untold gold and riches of the
Indies, suggested complications with foreign Powers, and transactions
with the Pope himself, that would probably be a little too much even for
the good Count; therefore with a curious mixture of far-sighted
generosity and shrewd security he wrote to Queen Isabella, recommending
Columbus to her, and asking her to consider his Idea; asking her also,
in case anything should come of it, to remember him (the Count), and to
let him have a finger in the pie.  Thus, with much literary circumstance
and elaboration of politeness, the Count of Medina Celi to Queen

Follows an interval of suspense, the beginning of a long discipline of
suspense to which Columbus was to be subjected; and presently comes a
favourable reply from the Queen, commanding that Columbus should be sent
to her.  Early in 1486 he set out for Cordova, where the Court was then
established, bearing another letter from the Count in which his own
private requests were repeated, and perhaps a little emphasised.
Columbus was lodged in the house of Alonso de Quintanilla, Treasurer to
the Crown of Castile, there to await an audience with Queen Isabella.

While he is waiting, and getting accustomed to his new surroundings, let
us consider these two monarchs in whose presence he is soon to appear,
and upon whose decision hangs some part of the world’s destiny.  Isabella
first; for in that strange duet of government it is her womanly soprano
that rings most clearly down the corridors of Time.  We discern in her a
very busy woman, living a difficult life with much tact and judgment, and
exercising to some purpose that amiable taste for “doing good” that marks
the virtuous lady of station in every age.  This, however, was a woman
who took risks with her eyes open, and steered herself cleverly in
perilous situations, and guided others with a firm hand also, and in
other ways made good her claim to be a ruler.  The consent and the will
of her people were her great strength; by them she dethroned her niece
and ascended the throne of Castile.  She had the misfortune to be at
variance with her husband in almost every matter of policy dear to his
heart; she opposed the expulsion of the Jews and the establishment of the
Inquisition; but when she failed to get her way, she was still able to
preserve her affectionate relations with her husband without disagreement
and with happiness.  If she had a fault it was the common one of being
too much under the influence of her confessors; but it was a fault that
was rarely allowed to disturb the balance of her judgment.  She liked
clever people also; surrounded herself with men of letters and of
science, fostered all learned institutions, and delighted in the details
of civil administration.  A very dignified and graceful figure, that
could equally adorn a Court drawing-room or a field of battle; for she
actually went into the field, and wore armour as becomingly as silk and
ermine.  Firm, constant, clever, alert, a little given to fussiness
perhaps, but sympathetic and charming, with some claims to genius and
some approach to grandeur of soul: so much we may say truly of her inner
self.  Outwardly she was a woman well formed, of medium height, a very
dignified and graceful carriage, eyes of a clear summer blue, and the red
and gold of autumn in her hair--these last inherited from her English

Ferdinand of Aragon appears not quite so favourably in our pages, for he
never thought well of Columbus or of his proposals; and when he finally
consented to the expedition he did so with only half a heart, and against
his judgment.  He was an extremely enterprising, extremely subtle,
extremely courageous, and according to our modern notions, an extremely
dishonest man; that is to say, his standards of honour were not those
which we can accept nowadays.  He thought nothing of going back on a
promise, provided he got a priestly dispensation to do so; he juggled
with his cabinets, and stopped at nothing in order to get his way; he had
a craving ambition, and was lacking in magnanimity; he loved dominion,
and cared very little for glory.  A very capable man; so capable that in
spite of his defects he was regarded by his subjects as wise and prudent;
so capable that he used his weaknesses of character to strengthen and
further the purposes of his reign.  A very cold man also, quick and sure
in his judgments, of wide understanding and grasp of affairs; simple and
austere in dress and diet, as austerity was counted in that period of
splendour; extremely industrious, and close in his observations and
judgments of men.  To the bodily eye he appeared as a man of middle size,
sturdy and athletic, face burned a brick red with exposure to the sun and
open air; hair and eyebrows of a bright chestnut; a well-formed and not
unkindly mouth; a voice sharp and unmelodious, issuing in quick fluent
speech.  This was the man that earned from the Pope, for himself and his
successors, the title of “Most Catholic Majesty.”

The Queen was very busy indeed with military preparations; but in the
midst of her interviews with nobles and officers, contractors and state
officials, she snatched a moment to receive the person Christopher
Columbus.  With that extreme mental agility which is characteristic of
busy sovereigns all the force of this clever woman’s mind was turned for
a moment on Christopher, whose Idea had by this time invested him with a
dignity which no amount of regal state could abash.  There was very
little time.  The Queen heard what Columbus had to say, cutting him
short, it is likely, with kindly tact, and suppressing his tendency to
launch out into long-winded speeches.  What she saw she liked; and, being
too busy to give to this proposal the attention that it obviously
merited, she told Columbus that the matter would be fully gone into and
that in the meantime he must regard himself as the guest of the Court.
And so, in the countenance of a smile and a promise, Columbus bows
himself out.  For the present he must wait a little and his hot heart
must contain itself while other affairs, looming infinitely larger than
his Idea on the royal horizon, receive the attention of the Court.

It was not the happiest moment, indeed, in which to talk of ships and
charts, and lonely sea-roads, and faraway undiscovered shores.  Things at
home were very real and lively in those spring days at Cordova.  The war
against the Moors had reached a critical stage; King Ferdinand was away
laying siege to the city of Loxa, and though the Queen was at Cordova she
was entirely occupied with the business of collecting and forwarding
troops and supplies to his aid.  The streets were full of soldiers;
nobles and grandees from all over the country were arriving daily with
their retinues; glitter and splendour, and the pomp of warlike
preparation, filled the city.  Early in June the Queen herself went to
the front and joined her husband in the siege of Moclin; and when this
was victoriously ended, and they had returned in triumph to Cordova, they
had to set out again for Gallicia to suppress a rebellion there.  When
that was over they did not come back to Cordova at all, but repaired at
once to Salamanca to spend the winter there.

At the house of Alonso de Quintanilla, however, Columbus was not
altogether wasting his time.  He met there some of the great persons of
the Court, among them the celebrated Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza,
Archbishop of Toledo and Grand Cardinal of Spain.  This was far too great
a man to be at this time anything like a friend of Columbus; but Columbus
had been presented to him; the Cardinal would know his name, and what his
business was; and that is always a step towards consideration.  Cabrero,
the royal Chamberlain, was also often a fellow-guest at the Treasurer’s
table; and with him Columbus contracted something like a friendship.
Every one who met him liked him; his dignity, his simplicity of thought
and manner, his experience of the sea, and his calm certainty and
conviction about the stupendous thing which he proposed to do, could
not fail to attract the liking and admiration of those with whom he came
in contact.  In the meantime a committee appointed by the Queen sat upon
his proposals.  The committee met under the presidentship of Hernando de
Talavera, the prior of the monastery of Santa Maria del Prado, near
Valladolid, a pious ecclesiastic, who had the rare quality of honesty,
and who was therefore a favourite with Queen Isabella; she afterwards
created him Archbishop of Granada.  He was not, however, poor honest
soul! quite the man to grasp and grapple with this wild scheme for a
voyage across the ocean.  Once more Columbus, as in Portugal, set forth
his views with eloquence and conviction; and once more, at the tribunal
of learning, his unlearned proposals were examined and condemned.  Not
only was Columbus’s Idea regarded as scientifically impossible, but it
was also held to come perilously near to heresy, in its assumption of a
state of affairs that was clearly at variance with the writings of the
Fathers and the sacred Scriptures themselves.

This new disappointment, bitter though it was, did not find Columbus in
such friendless and unhappy circumstances as those in which he left
Portugal.  He had important friends now, who were willing and anxious to
help him, and among them was one to whom he turned, in his profound
depression, for religious and friendly consolation.  This was Diego de
DEA, prior of the Dominican convent of San Estevan at Salamanca, who was
also professor of theology in the university there and tutor to the young
Prince Juan.  Of all those who came in contact with Columbus at this time
this man seems to have understood him best, and to have realised where
his difficulty lay.  Like many others who are consumed with a burning
idea Columbus was very probably at this time in danger of becoming
possessed with it like a monomaniac; and his new friends saw that if he
were to make any impression upon the conservative learning of the time to
which a decision in such matters was always referred he must have some
opportunity for friendly discussion with learned men who were not
inimical to him, and who were not in the position of judges examining a
man arraigned before them and pleading for benefits.

When the Court went to Salamanca at the end of 1486, DEA arranged that
Columbus should go there too, and he lodged him in a country farm called
Valcuebo, which belonged to his convent and was equi-distant from it and
the city.  Here the good Dominican fathers came and visited him, bringing
with them professors from the university, who discussed patiently with
Columbus his theories and ambitions, and, himself all conscious,
communicated new knowledge to him, and quietly put him right on many a
scientific point.  There were professors of cosmography and astronomy in
the university, familiar with the works of Alfraganus and Regiomontanus.
It is likely that it was at this time that Columbus became possessed of
d’Ailly’s ‘Imago Mundi’, which little volume contained a popular resume
of the scientific views of Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy, and others, and was
from this time forth Columbus’s constant companion.

Here at Valcuebo and later, when winter came, in the great hall of the
Dominican convent at Salamanca, known as the “De Profundis” hall, where
the monks received guests and held discussions, the Idea of Columbus was
ventilated and examined.  He heard what friendly sceptics had to say
about it; he saw the kind of argument that he would have to oppose to the
existing scientific and philosophical knowledge on cosmography.  There is
no doubt that he learnt a good deal at this time; and more important even
than this, he got his project known and talked about; and he made
powerful friends, who were afterwards to be of great use to him.  The
Marquesa de Moya, wife of his friend Cabrera, took a great liking to him;
and as she was one of the oldest and closest friends of the Queen, it is
likely that she spoke many a good word for Columbus in Isabella’s ear.

By the time the Court moved to Cordova early in 1487, Columbus was once
more hopeful of getting a favourable hearing.  He followed the Court to
Cordova, where he received a gracious message from the Queen to the
effect that she had not forgotten him, and that as soon as her military
preoccupations permitted it, she would go once more, and more fully, into
his proposals.  In the meantime he was attached to the Court, and
received a quarterly payment of 3000 maravedis.  It seemed as though the
unfavourable decision of Talavera’s committee had been forgotten.

In the meantime he was to have a change of scene.  Isabella followed
Ferdinand to the siege of Malaga, where the Court was established; and as
there were intervals in which other than military business might be
transacted, Columbus was ordered to follow them in case his affairs
should come up for consideration.  They did not; but the man himself had
an experience that may have helped to keep his thoughts from brooding too
much on his unfulfilled ambition.  Years afterwards, when far away on
lonely seas, amid the squalor of a little ship and the staggering buffets
of a gale, there would surely sometimes leap into his memory a brightly
coloured picture of this scene in the fertile valley of Malaga: the
silken pavilions of the Court, the great encampment of nobility with its
arms and banners extending in a semicircle to the seashore, all
glistening and moving in the bright sunshine.  There was added excitement
at this time at an attempt to assassinate Ferdinand and Isabella, a
fanatic Moor having crept up to one of the pavilions and aimed a blow at
two people whom he mistook for the King and Queen.  They turned out to be
Don Alvaro de Portugal, who was dangerously wounded, and Columbus’s
friend, the Marquesa de Moya, who was unhurt; but it was felt that the
King and Queen had had a narrow escape.  The siege was raised on the 18th
of August, and the sovereigns went to spend the winter at Zaragoza; and
Columbus, once more condemned to wait, went back to Cordova.

It was here that he contracted his second and, so far as we know, his
last romantic attachment.  The long idle days of summer and autumn at
Cordova, empty of all serious occupation, gave nature an opportunity for
indulging her passion for life and continuity.  Among Christopher’s
friends at Cordova was the family of Arana, friendly hospitable souls,
by some accounts noble and by others not noble, and certainly in somewhat
poor circumstances, who had welcomed him to their house, listened to his
plans with enthusiasm, and formed a life-long friendship with him.  Three
members of this family are known to us--two brothers, Diego and Pedro,
both of whom commanded ships in Columbus’s expeditions, and a sister
Beatriz.  Columbus was now a man of six-and-thirty, while she was little
more than a girl; he was handsome and winning, distinguished by the
daring and importance of his scheme, full of thrilling and romantic talk
of distant lands; a very interesting companion, we may be sure.  No
wonder she fell in love with Christopher; no wonder that he, feeling
lonely and depressed by the many postponements of his suit at Court, and
in need of sympathy and encouragement, fell in these blank summer days
into an intimacy that flamed into a brief but happy passion.  Why
Columbus never married Beatriz de Arana we cannot be sure, for it is
almost certain that his first wife had died some time before.  Perhaps he
feared to involve himself in any new or embarrassing ties; perhaps he
loved unwillingly, and against his reason; perhaps--although the
suggestion is not a happy one--he by this time did not think poor Beatriz
good enough for the Admiral-elect of the Ocean Seas; perhaps (and more
probably) Beatriz was already married and deserted, for she bore the
surname of Enriquez; and in that case, there being no such thing as a
divorce in the Catholic Church, she must either sin or be celibate.  But
however that may be, there was an uncanonical alliance between them which
evidently did not in the least scandalise her brothers and which resulted
in the birth of Ferdinand Columbus in the following year.  Christopher,
so communicative and discursive upon some of his affairs, is as reticent
about Beatriz as he was about Philippa.  Beatriz shares with his
legitimate wife the curious distinction of being spoken of by Columbus to
posterity only in his will, which was executed at Valladolid the day
before he died.  In the dry ink and vellum of that ancient legal document
is his only record of these two passions.  The reference to Beatriz is as

     “And I direct him [Diego] to make provision for Beatriz Enriquez,
     mother of D. Fernando, my son, that she may be able to live
     honestly, being a person to whom I am under very great obligation.
     And this shall be done for the satisfaction of my conscience,
     because this matter weighs heavily upon my soul.  The reason for
     which it is not fitting to write here.”

About the condition of Beatriz, temporal and spiritual, there has been
much controversy; but where the facts are all so buried and inaccessible
it is unseemly to agitate a veil which we cannot lift, and behind which
Columbus himself sheltered this incident of his life.  “Acquainted with
poverty” is one fragment of fact concerning her that has come down to us;
acquainted also with love and with happiness, it would seem, as many poor
persons undoubtedly are.  Enough for us to know that in the city of
Cordova there lived a woman, rich or poor, gentle or humble, married or
not married, who brought for a time love and friendly companionship into
the life of Columbus; that she gave what she had for giving, without
stint or reserve, and that she became the mother of a son who inherited
much of what was best in his father, and but for whom the world would be
in even greater darkness than it is on the subject of Christopher
himself.  And so no more of Beatriz Enriquez de Arana, whom “God has in
his keeping”--and has had now these many centuries of Time.

Thus passed the summer and autumn of 1487; precious months, precious
years slipping by, and the great purpose as yet unfulfilled and seemingly
no nearer to fulfilment.  It is likely that Columbus kept up his
applications to the Court, and received polite and delaying replies.
The next year came, and the Court migrated from Zaragoza to Murcia, from
Murcia to Valladolid, from Valladolid to Medina del Campo.  Columbus
attended it in one or other of these places, but without result.  In
August Beatriz gave birth to a son, who was christened Ferdinand, and who
lived to be a great comfort to his father, if not to her also.  But the
miracle of paternity was not now so new and wonderful as it had been; the
battle of life, with its crosses and difficulties, was thick about him;
and perhaps he looked into this new-comer’s small face with conflicting
thoughts, and memories of the long white beach and the crashing surf at
Porto Santo, and regret for things lost--so strangely mingled and
inconsistent are the threads of human thought.  At last he decided to
turn his face elsewhere.  In September 1488 he went to Lisbon, for what
purpose it is not certain; possibly in connection with the affairs of his
dead wife; and probably also in the expectation of seeing his brother
Bartholomew, to whom we may now turn our attention for a moment.

After the failure of Columbus’s proposals to the King of Portugal in
1486, and the break-up of his home there, Bartholomew had also left
Lisbon.  Bartholomew Diaz, a famous Portuguese navigator, was leaving for
the African coast in August, and Bartholomew Columbus is said to have
joined his small expedition of three caravels.  As they neared the
latitude of the Cape which he was trying to make, he ran into a gale
which drove him a long way out of his course, west and south.

The wind veered round from north-east to north-west, and he did not
strike the land again until May 1487.  When he did so his crew insisted
upon his returning, as they declined to go any further south.  He
therefore turned to the west, and then made the startling discovery that
in the course of the tempest he had been blown round the Cape, and that
the land he had made was to the eastward of it; and he therefore rounded
it on his way home.  He arrived back in Lisbon in December 1488, when
Columbus met his brother again, and was present at the reception of Diaz
by the King of Portugal.  They had a great deal to tell each other, these
two brothers; in the two years and a half that had gone since they had
parted a great deal had happened to them; and they both knew a good deal
more about the great question in which they, were interested than they
had known when last they talked.

It is to this period that I attribute the inception, if not the
execution, of the forgery of the Toscanelli correspondence, if, as I
believe, it was a forgery.  Christopher’s unpleasant experiences before
learned committees and commissions had convinced him that unless he were
armed with some authoritative and documentary support for his theories
they had little chance of acceptance by the learned.  The, Idea was
right; he knew that; but before he could convince the academic mind, he
felt that it must have the imprimatur of a mind whose learning could not
be impugned.  Therefore it is not an unfair guess--and it can be nothing
more than a guess--that Christopher and Bartholomew at this point laid
their heads together, and decided that the next time Christopher had to
appear before a commission he would, so to speak, have something “up his
sleeve.”  It was a risky thing to do, and must in any case be used only
as a very last resource; which would account for the fact that the
Toscanelli correspondence was never used at all, and is not mentioned in
any document known to men written until long after Columbus’s death.

But these summers and winters of suspense are at last drawing to a close,
and we must follow Christopher rapidly through them until the hour of his
triumph.  He was back in Spain in the spring of 1489, his travelling
expenses being defrayed out of the royal purse; and a little later he was
once more amid scenes of war at the siege of Baza, and, if report is
true, taking a hand himself, not without distinction.  It was there that
he saw the two friars from the convent of the Holy Sepulchre at
Jerusalem, who brought a message from the Grand Soldan of Egypt,
threatening the destruction of the Sepulchre if the Spanish sovereigns
did not desist from the war against Granada; and it was there that in his
simple and pious mind he formed the resolve that if ever his efforts
should be crowned with success, and he himself become rich and powerful,
he would send a crusade for the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre.  And it was
there that, on the 22nd of December, he saw Boabdil, the elder of the two
rival Kings of Granada, surrender all his rights and claims to Spain.
Surely now there will be a chance for him?  No; there is another
interruption, this time occasioned by the royal preparations for the
marriage of the Princess Isabella to the heir of Portugal.  Poor
Columbus, sickened and disappointed by these continual delays, irritated
by a sense of the waste of his precious time, follows the Court about
from one place to another, raising a smile here and a scoff there, and
pointed at by children in the street.  There, is nothing so ludicrous as
an Idea to those who do not share it.

Another summer, another winter, lost out of a life made up of a limited
number of summers and winters; a few more winters and summers, thinks
Christopher, and I shall be in a world where Ideas are not needed, and
where there is nothing left to discover!  Something had to be done.  In
the beginning of 1491 there was only one thing spoken of at Court--the
preparations for the siege of Granada, which did not interest Columbus at
all.  The camp of King Ferdinand was situated at Santa Fe, a few miles to
the westward of Granada, and Columbus came here late in the year,
determined to get a final answer one way or the other to his question.
He made his application, and the busy monarchs once more adopted their
usual polite tactics.  They appointed a junta, which was presided over by
no less a person than the Cardinal of Spain, Gonzales de Mendoza: Once
more the weary business was gone through, but Columbus must have had some
hopes of success, since he did not produce his forged Toscanelli
correspondence.  It was no scruple of conscience that held him back, we
may be sure; the crafty Genoese knew nothing about such scruples in the
attainment of a great object; he would not have hesitated to adopt any
means to secure an end which he felt to be so desirable.  So it is
probable that either he was not quite sure of his ground and his courage
failed him, or that he had hopes, owing to his friendship with so many of
the members of the junta, that a favourable decision would at last be
arrived at.  In this he was mistaken.  The Spanish prelates again quoted
the Fathers of the Church, and disposed of his proposals simply on the
ground that they were heretical.  Much talk, and much wagging of learned
heads; and still no mother-wit or gleam of light on this obscurity of
learning.  The junta decided against the proposals, and reported its
decision to the King and Queen.  The monarchs, true to their somewhat
hedging methods when there was anything to be gained by hedging, informed
Columbus that at present they were too much occupied with the war to
grant his requests; but that, when the preoccupations and expenses of the
campaign were a thing of the past, they might again turn their attention
to his very interesting suggestion.

It was at this point that the patience of Columbus broke down.  Too many
promises had been made to him, and hope had been held out to him too
often for him to believe any more in it.  Spain, he decided, was useless;
he would try France; at least he would be no worse off there.  But he had
first of all to settle his affairs as well as possible.  Diego, now a
growing boy nearly eleven years old, had been staying with Beatriz at
Cordova, and going to school there; Christopher would take him back to
his aunt’s at Huelva before he went away.  He set out with a heavy heart,
but with purpose and determination unimpaired.



It is a long road from Santa Fe to Huelva, a long journey to make on
foot, and the company of a sad heart and a little talking boy, prone to
sudden weariness and the asking of innumerable difficult questions, would
not make it very much shorter.  Every step that Christopher took carried
him farther away from the glittering scene where his hopes had once been
so bright, and were now fallen to the dust; and every step brought him
nearer that unknown destiny as to which he was in great darkness of mind,
and certain only that there was some small next thing constantly to be
done: the putting down of one foot after another, the request for food
and lodging at the end of each short day’s march, the setting out again
in the morning.  That walk from Santa Fe, so real and painful and
wearisome and long a thing to Christopher and Diego, is utterly blank and
obliterated for us.  What he thought and felt and suffered are things
quite dead; what he did-namely, to go and do the immediate thing that it
seemed possible and right for him to do--is a living fact to-day, for it
brought him, as all brave and honest doing will, a little nearer to his
destiny, a little nearer to the truthful realisation of what was in him.

At about a day’s journey from Huelva, where the general slope of the land
begins to fall towards the sea, two small rivers, the Odiel and the
Tinto, which have hitherto been making music each for itself through the
pleasant valleys and vineyards of Andalusia, join forces, and run with a
deeper stream towards the sea at Palos.  The town of Palos lay on the
banks of the river; a little to the south of it, and on the brow of a
rocky promontory dark with pine trees, there stood the convent of Our
Lady of La Rabida.  Stood, on this November evening in the year 1491;
had stood in some form or other, and used for varying purposes, for many
years and centuries before that, even to the time of the Romans; and
still stands, a silent and neglected place, yet to be visited and seen by
such as are curious.  To the door of this place comes Christopher as
darkness falls, urged thereto by the plight of Diego, who is tired and
hungry.  Christopher rings the bell, and asks the porter for a little
bread and water for the child, and a lodging for them both.  There is
some talk at the door; the Franciscan lay brother being given, at all
times in the history of his order, to the pleasant indulgence of
gossiping conversation, when that is lawful; and the presence of a
stranger, who speaks with a foreign accent, being at all times a incident
of interest and even of excitement in the quiet life of a monastery.  The
moment is one big with import to the human race; it marks a period in the
history of our man; the scene is worth calling up.  Dark night, with sea
breezes moaning in the pine trees, outside; raying light from within
falling on the lay brother leaning in the doorway and on the two figures
standing without: on Christopher, grave, subdued, weary, yet now as
always of pleasant and impressive address, and on the small boy who
stands beside him round-eyed and expectant, his fatigue for the moment
forgotten in curiosity and anticipation.

While they are talking comes no less a person than the Prior of the
monastery, Friar Juan Perez, bustling round, good-natured busybody that
he is, to see what is all this talk at the door.  The Prior, as is the
habit of monks, begins by asking questions.  What is the stranger’s name?
Where does he come from?  Where is he going to?  What is his business?
Is the little boy his son?  He has actually come from Santa Fe?  The
Prior, loving talk after the manner of his kind, sees in this grave and
smooth-spoken stranger rich possibilities of talk; possibilities that
cannot possibly be exhausted to-night, it being now hard on the hour of
Compline; the stranger must come in and rest for tonight at least, and
possibly for several nights.  There is much bustle and preparation; the
travellers are welcomed with monkish hospitality; Christopher, we may be
sure, goes and hears the convent singing Compline, and offers up devout
prayers for a quiet night and for safe conduct through this vale of
tears; and goes thankfully to bed with the plainsong echoing in his ears,
and some stoic sense that all days, however hard, have an evening, and
all journeys an end.

Next morning the talk begins in earnest, and Christopher, never a very
reserved man, finds in the friendly curiosity of the monks abundant
encouragement to talk; and before very long he is in full swing with his
oft-told story.  The Prior is delighted with it; he has not heard
anything so interesting for a long time.  Moreover, he has not always
been in a convent; he was not so long ago confessor to Queen Isabella
herself, and has much to communicate and ask concerning that lady.
Columbus’s proposal does not strike him as being unreasonable at all;
but he has a friend in Palos, a very learned man indeed, Doctor Garcia
Hernandez, who often comes and has a talk with him; he knows all about
astronomy and cosmography; the Prior will send for him.  And meanwhile
there must be no word of Columbus’s departure for a few days at any rate.

Presently Doctor Garcia Hernandez arrives, and the whole story is gone
over again.  They go at it hammer and tongs, arguments and
counter-arguments, reasons for and against, encouragements, and
objections.  The result is that Doctor Garcia Hernandez, whose learning
seems not yet quite to have blinded or deafened him, thinks well of the
scheme; thinks so well of it that he protests it will be a thousand
pities if the chance of carrying it out is lost to Spain.  The worthy
Prior, who has been somewhat out of it while the talk about degrees and
latitudes has been going on, here strikes in again; he will use his
influence.  Perhaps the good man, living up here among the pine trees
and the sea winds, and involved in the monotonous round of Prime, Lauds,
Nones, Vespers, has a regretful thought or two of the time when he moved
in the splendid intricacy of Court life; at any rate he is not sorry to
have an opportunity of recalling himself to the attention of Her
Majesty, for the spiritual safety of whose soul he was once responsible;
perhaps, being (in spite of his Nones and Vespers) a human soul, he is
glad of an opportunity of opposing the counsels of his successor,
Talavera.  In a word, he will use his Influence.  Then follow much
drafting of letters, and laying of heads together, and clatter of
monkish tongues; the upshot of which is that a letter is written in
which Perez urges his daughter in the Lord in the strongest possible
terms not to let slip so glorious an opportunity, not only of fame and
increment to her kingdom, but of service to the Church and the kingdom
of Heaven itself.  He assures her that Columbus is indeed about to
depart from the country, but that he (Perez) will detain him at La
Rabida until he has an answer from the Queen.

A messenger to carry the letter was found in the person of Sebastian
Rodriguez, a pilot of the port, who immediately set off to Santa Fe.
It is not likely that Columbus, after so many rebuffs, was very hopeful;
but in the meantime, here he was amid the pious surroundings in which the
religious part of him delighted, and in a haven of rest after all his
turmoils and trials.  He could look out to sea over the flecked waters of
that Atlantic whose secrets he longed to discover; or he could look down
into the busy little port of Palos, and watch the ships sailing in and
out across the bar of Saltes.  He could let his soul, much battered and
torn of late by trials and disappointments, rest for a time on the rock
of religion; he could snuff the incense in the chapel to his heart’s
content, and mingle his rough top-gallant voice with the harsh croak of
the monks in the daily cycle of prayer and praise.  He could walk with
Diego through the sandy roads beneath the pine trees, or through the
fields and vineyards below; and above all he could talk to the company
that good Perez invited to meet him--among them merchants and sailors
from Palos, of whom the chief was Martin Alonso Pinzon, a wealthy
landowner and navigator, whose family lived then at Palos, owning the
vineyards round about, and whose descendants live there to this day.
Pinzon was a listener after Columbus’s own heart; he not only believed in
his project, but offered to assist it with money, and even to accompany
the expedition himself.  Altogether a happy and peaceful time, in which
hopes revived, and the inner light that, although it had now and then
flickered, had never gone out, burned up again in a bright and steady

At the end of a fortnight, and much sooner than had been expected, the
worthy pilot returned with a letter from the Queen.  Eager hands seized
it and opened it; delight beamed from the eyes of the good Prior.  The
Queen was most cordial to him, thanked him for his intervention, was
ready to listen to him and even to be convinced by him; and in the
meantime commanded his immediate appearance at the Court, asking that
Columbus would be so good as to wait at La Rabida until he should hear
further from her.  Then followed such a fussing and fuming, such a
running hither and thither, and giving and taking of instructions and
clatter of tongues as even the convent of La Rabida had probably never
known.  Nothing will serve the good old busybody, although it is now near
midnight, but that he must depart at once.  He will not wait for
daylight; he will not, the good honest soul! wait at all.  He must be off
at once; he must have this, he must have that; he will take this, he
will leave that behind; or no, he will take that, and leave this behind.
He must have a mule, for his old feet will not bear him fast enough;
ex-confessors of Her Majesty, moreover, do not travel on foot; and after
more fussing and running hither and thither a mule is borrowed from one
Juan Rodriguez Cabezudo of Moguer; and with a God-speed from the group
standing round the lighted doorway, the old monk sets forth into the

It is a strange thing to consider what unimportant flotsam sometimes
floats visibly upon the stream of history, while the gravest events are
sunk deep beneath its flood.  We would give a king’s ransom to know
events that must have taken place in any one of twenty years in the life
of Columbus, but there is no sign of them on the surface of the stream,
nor will any fishing bring them to light.  Yet here, bobbing up like a
cork, comes the name of Juan Rodriguez Cabezudo of Moguer, doubtless a
good worthy soul, but, since he has been dead these four centuries and
more, of no interest or importance to any human being; yet of whose life
one trivial act, surviving the flood of time which has engulfed all else
that he thought important, falls here to be recorded: that he did,
towards midnight of a day late in December 1491 lend a mule to Friar Juan

Of that heroic mule journey we have no record; but it brought results
enough to compensate the good Prior for all his aching bones and
rheumatic joints.  He was welcomed by the Queen, who had never quite lost
her belief in Columbus, but who had hitherto deferred to the apathy of
Ferdinand and the disapproval--of her learned advisers.  Now, however,
the matter was reopened.  She, who sometimes listened to priests with
results other than good, heard this worthy priest to good purpose.  The
feminine friends of Columbus who remembered him at Court also spoke up
for him, among them the Marquesa de Moya, with whom he had always been a
favourite; and it was decided that his request should be granted and
three vessels equipped for the expedition, “that he might go and make
discoveries and prove true the words he had spoken.”--Moreover, the
machinery that had been so hard to move before, turned swiftly now.
Diego Prieto, one of the magistrates of Palos, was sent to Columbus at La
Rabida, bearing 20,000 maravedis  with which he was to buy a mule and
decent clothing for himself, and repair immediately to the Court at Santa
Fe.  Old Perez was in high feather, and busy with his pen.  He wrote to
Doctor Garcia Hernandez, and also to Columbus, in whose letter the
following pleasant passage occurs:

     “Our Lord has listened to the prayers of His servant.  The wise and
     virtuous Isabella, touched by the grace of Heaven, gave a favourable
     hearing to the words of this poor monk.  All has turned out well.
     Far from despising your project, she has adopted it from this time,
     and she has summoned you to Court to propose the means which seem
     best to you for the execution of the designs of Providence.  My
     heart swims in a sea of comfort, and my spirit leaps with joy in the
     Lord.  Start at once, for the Queen waits for you, and I much more
     than she.  Commend me to the prayers of my brethren, and of your
     little Diego.  The grace of God be with you, and may Our Lady of La
     Rabida accompany you.”

The news of that day must have come upon Columbus like a burst of
sunshine after rain.  I like to think how bright must have seemed to him
the broad view of land and sea, how deeply the solemn words of the last
office which he attended must have sunk into his soul, how great and glad
a thing life must have been to him, and how lightly the miles must have
passed beneath the feet of his mule as he jogged out on the long road to
Santa Fe.



Once more; in the last days of the year 1491, Columbus rode into the
brilliant camp which he had quitted a few weeks before with so heavy a
heart.  Things were changed now.  Instead of being a suitor, making a
nuisance of himself, and forcing his affairs on the attention of
unwilling officials, he was now an invited and honoured guest; much more
than that, he was in the position of one who believed that he had a great
service to render to the Crown, and who was at last to be permitted to
render it.

Even now, at the eleventh hour, there was one more brief interruption.
On the 1st of January 1492 the last of the Moorish kings sent in his
surrender to King Ferdinand, whom he invited to come and take possession
of the city of Granada; and on the next day the Spanish army marched into
that city, where, in front of the Alhambra, King Ferdinand received the
keys of the castle and the homage of the Moorish king.  The wars of eight
centuries were at an end, and the Christian banner of Spain floated at
last over the whole land.  Victory and success were in the air, and the
humble Genoese adventurer was to have his share in them.  Negotiations of
a practical nature were now begun; old friends--Talavera, Luis de
Santangel, and the Grand Cardinal himself--were all brought into
consultation with the result that matters soon got to the documentary
stage.  Here, however, there was a slight hitch.  It was not simply a
matter of granting two, or three ships.  The Genoese was making a
bargain, and asking an impossible price.  Even the great grandees and
Court officials, accustomed to the glitter and dignity of titles, rubbed
their eyes with astonishment, when they saw what Columbus was demanding.
He who had been suing for privileges was now making conditions.  And what
conditions!  He must be created Admiral of all the Ocean Seas and of the
new lands, with equal privileges and prerogatives as those appertaining
to the High Admiral of Castile, the supreme naval officer of Spain.
Not content with sea dignities, he was also to be Viceroy and
Governor-General in all islands or mainlands that he might acquire; he
wanted a tenth part of the profits resulting from his discoveries, in
perpetuity; and he must have the permanent right of contributing an
eighth part of the cost of the equipment and have an additional eighth
part of the profits; and all his heirs and descendants for ever were to
have the same privileges.  These conditions were on such a scale as no
sovereign could readily approve.  Columbus’s lack of pedigree, and the
fact also that he was a foreigner, made them seem the more preposterous;
for although he might receive kindness and even friendship from some of
the grand Spaniards with whom he associated, that friendship and
kindness were given condescendingly and with a smile.  He was delightful
when he was merely proposing as a mariner to confer additional grandeur
and glory on the Crown; but when it came to demanding titles and
privileges which would make him rank with the highest grandees in, the
land, the matter took on quite a different colour.  It was nonsense; it
could not be allowed; and many were the friendly hints that Columbus
doubtless received at this time to relinquish his wild demands and not
to overreach himself.

But to the surprise and dismay of his friends, who really wished him to
have a chance of distinguishing himself, and were shocked at the
impediments he was now putting in his own way, the man from Genoa stood
firm.  What he proposed to do, he said, was worthy of the rewards that he
asked; they were due to the importance and grandeur of his scheme, and so
on.  Nor did he fail to point out that the bestowal of them was a matter
altogether contingent on results; if there were no results, there would
be no rewards; if there were results, they would be worthy of the
rewards.  This action of Columbus’s deserves close study.  He had come to
a turning-point in his life.  He had been asking, asking, asking, for six
years; he had been put off and refused over and over again; people were
beginning to laugh at him for a madman; and now, when a combination of
lucky chances had brought him to the very door of success, he stood
outside the threshold bargaining for a preposterous price before he would
come in.  It seemed like the densest stupidity.  What is the explanation
of it?

The only explanation of it is to be found in the character of Columbus.
We must try to see him as he is in this forty-second year of his life,
bargaining with notaries, bishops, and treasurers; we must try to see
where these forty years have brought him, and what they have made of him.
Remember the little boy that played in the Vico Dritto di Ponticello,
acquainted with poverty, but with a soul in him that could rise beyond it
and acquire something of the dignity of that Genoa, arrogant, splendid
and devout, which surrounded him during his early years.  Remember his
long life of obscurity at sea, and the slow kindling of the light of
faith in something beyond the familiar horizons; remember the social
inequality of his marriage, his long struggle with poverty, his long
familiarity with the position of one who asked and did not receive; the
many rebuffs and indignities which his Ligurian pride must have received
at the hands of all those Spanish dignitaries and grandees--remember all
this, and then you will perhaps not wonder so much that Columbus, who was
beginning to believe himself appointed by Heaven to this task of
discovery, felt that he had much to pay himself back for.  One must
recognise him frankly for what he was, and for no conventional hero of
romance; a man who would reconcile his conscience with anything, and
would stop at nothing in the furtherance of what he deemed a good object;
and a man at the same time who had a conscience to reconcile, and would,
whenever it was necessary, laboriously and elaborately perform the act of
reconciliation.  When he made these huge demands in Granada he was
gambling with his chances; but he was a calculating gambler, just about
as cunning and crafty in the weighing of one chance against another as a
gambler with a conscience can be; and he evidently realised that his own
valuation of the services he proposed to render would not be without its
influence on his sovereign’s estimate of them.  At any rate he was
justified by the results, for on the 17th of April 1492, after a deal of
talk and bargaining, but apparently without any yielding on Columbus’s
part, articles of capitulation were drawn up in which the following
provisions were made:--

First, that Columbus and his heirs for ever should have the title and
office of Admiral in all the islands and continents of the ocean that he
or they might discover, with similar honours and prerogatives to those
enjoyed by the High Admiral of Castile.

Second, that he and his heirs should be Viceroys and Governors-General
over all the said lands and continents, with the right of nominating
three candidates for the governing of each island or province, one of
whom should be appointed by the Crown.

Third, that he end his heirs should be entitled to one-tenth of all
precious stones, metals, spices, and other merchandises, however
acquired, within his Admiralty, the cost of acquisition being first

Fourth, that he or his lieutenants in their districts, and the High
Admiral of Castile in his district, should be the sole judge in all
disputes arising out of traffic between Spain and the new countries.

Fifth, that he now, and he and his heirs at all times, should have the
right to contribute the eighth part of the expense of fitting out
expeditions, and receive the eighth part of the profits.

In addition to these articles there was another document drawn up on the
30th of April, which after an infinite preamble about the nature of the
Holy Trinity, of the Apostle Saint James, and of the Saints of God
generally in their relations to Princes, and with a splendid trailing of
gorgeous Spanish names and titles across the page, confers upon our
hitherto humble Christopher the right to call himself “Don,” and finally
raises him, in his own estimation at any rate, to a social level with his
proud Spanish friends.  It is probably from this time that he adopted the
Spanish form of his name, Christoval Colon; but in this narrative I shall
retain the more universal form in which it has become familiar to the
English-speaking world.

He was now upon a Pisgah height, from which in imagination he could look
forth and see his Land of Promise.  We also may climb up with him, and
stand beside him as he looks westward.  We shall not see so clearly as he
sees, for we have not his inner light; and it is probable that even he
does not see the road at all, but only the goal, a single point of light
shining across a gulf of darkness.  But from Pisgah there is a view
backward as well as forward, and, we may look back for a moment on this
last period of Christopher’s life in Spain, inwardly to him so full of
trouble and difficulty and disappointment, outwardly so brave and
glittering, musical with high-sounding names and the clash of arms; gay
with sun and shine and colour.  The brilliant Court moving from camp to
camp with its gorgeous retinues and silken pavilions and uniforms and
dresses and armours; the excitement of war, the intrigues of the
antechamber--these are the bright fabric of the latter years; and against
it, as against a background, stand out the beautiful names of the Spanish
associates of Columbus at this time--Medina Celi, Alonso de Quintanilla,
Cabrero, Arana, DEA, Hernando de Talavera, Gonzales de Mendoza, Alonso de
Cardenas, Perez, Hernandez, Luis de Santangel, and Rodriguez de
Maldonado--names that now, in his hour of triumph, are like banners
streaming in the wind against a summer sky.



The Palos that witnessed the fitting out of the ships of Columbus exists
no longer.  The soul is gone from it; the trade that in those days made
it great and busy has floated away from it into other channels; and it
has dwindled and shrunk, until to-day it consists of nothing but a double
street of poor white houses, such almost as you may see in any sea-coast
village in Ireland.  The slow salt tides of the Atlantic come flooding in
over the Manto bank, across the bar of Saltes, and, dividing at the
tongue of land that separates the two rivers, creep up the mud banks of
the Tinto and the Odiel until they lie deep beside the wharves of Huelva
and Palos; but although Huelva still has a trade the tides bring nothing
to Palos, and take nothing away with them again.  From La Rabida now you
can no longer see, as Columbus saw, fleets of caravels lying-to and
standing off and on outside the bar waiting for the flood tide; only a
few poor boats fishing for tunny in the empty sunny waters, or the smoke
of a steamer standing on her course for the Guadalquiver or Cadiz.

But in those spring days of 1492 there was a great stir and bustle of
preparation in Palos.  As soon as the legal documents had been signed
Columbus returned there and, taking up his quarters at La Rabida, set
about fitting out his expedition.  The reason Palos was chosen was an
economical one.  The port, for some misdemeanour, had lately been
condemned to provide two caravels for the service of the Crown for a
period of twelve months; and in the impoverished state of the royal
exchequer this free service came in very usefully in fitting out the
expedition of discovery.  Columbus was quite satisfied, since he had such
good friends at Palos; and he immediately set about choosing the ships.

This, however, did not prove to be quite such a straightforward business
as might have been expected.  The truth is that, whatever a few monks and
physicians may have thought of it, the proposed expedition terrified the
ordinary seafaring population of Palos.  It was thought to be the wildest
and maddest scheme that any one had ever heard of.  All that was known
about the Atlantic west of the Azores was that it was a sea of darkness,
inhabited by monsters and furrowed by enormous waves, and that it fell
down the slope of the world so steeply that no ship having once gone down
could ever climb up it again.  And not only was there reluctance on the
part of mariners to engage themselves for the expedition, but also a
great shyness on the part of ship-owners to provide ships.  This
reluctance proved so formidable an impediment that Columbus had to
communicate with the King and Queen; with the result that on the 23rd of
May the population was summoned to the church of Saint George, where the
Notary Public read aloud to them the letter from the sovereigns
commanding the port to furnish ships and men, and an additional order
summoning the town to obey it immediately.  An inducement was provided in
the offer of a free pardon to all criminals and persons under sentence
who chose to enlist.

Still the thing hung fire; and on June 20 a new and peremptory order was
issued by the Crown authorising Columbus to impress the vessels and crew
if necessary.  Time was slipping away; and in his difficulty Columbus
turned to Martin Alonso Pinzon, upon whose influence and power in the
town he could count.  There were three brothers then in this
family--Martin Alonso, Vincenti Yanez, and Francisco Martin, all pilots
themselves and owners of ships.  These three brothers saw some hope of
profit out of the enterprise, and they exerted themselves on
Christopher’s behalf so thoroughly that, not only did they afford him
help in the obtaining of ships, men, and supplies, but they all three
decided to go with him.

There was one more financial question to be settled--a question that
remains for us in considerable obscurity, but was in all probability
partly settled by the aid of these brothers.  The total cost of the
expedition, consisting of three ships, wages of the crew, stores and
provisions, was 1,167,542 maravedis, about L950(in 1900).  After all
these years of pleading at Court, all the disappointments and deferred
hopes and sacrifices made by Columbus, the smallness of this sum cannot
but strike us with amazement.  Many a nobleman that Columbus must have
rubbed shoulders with in his years at Court could have furnished the
whole sum out of his pocket and never missed it; yet Columbus had to wait
years and years before he could get it from the Crown.  Still more
amazing, this sum was not all provided by the Crown; 167,000 maravedis
were found by Columbus, and the Crown only contributed one million
maravedis.  One can only assume that Columbus’s pertinacity in
petitioning the King and Queen to undertake the expedition, when he
could with comparative ease have got the money from some of his noble
acquaintance, was due to three things--his faith and belief in his Idea,
his personal ambition, and his personal greed.  He believed in his Idea
so thoroughly that he knew he was going to find something across the
Atlantic.  Continents and islands cannot for long remain in the
possession of private persons; they are the currency of crowns; and he
did not want to be left in the lurch if the land he hoped to discover
should be seized or captured by Spain or Portugal.  The result of his
discoveries, he was convinced, was going to be far too large a thing to
be retained and controlled by any machinery less powerful than that of a
kingdom; therefore he was unwilling to accept either preliminary
assistance or subsequent rewards from any but the same powerful hand.
Admiralties, moreover, and Governor-Generalships and Viceroyships cannot
be conferred by counts and dukes, however powerful; the very title Don
could only be conferred by one power in Spain; and all the other titles
and dignities that Columbus craved with all his Genoese soul were to be
had from the hands of kings, and not from plutocrats.  It was
characteristic of him all his life never to deal with subordinates, but
always to go direct to the head man; and when the whole purpose and
ambition of his life was to be put to the test it was only consistent in
him, since he could not be independent, to go forth under the protection
of the united Crown of Aragon and Castile.  Where or how he raised his
share of the cost is not known; it is possible that his old friend the
Duke of Medina Celi came to his help, or that the Pinzon family, who
believed enough in the expedition to risk their lives in it, lent some of
the necessary money.

Ever since ships were in danger of going to sea short-handed methods of
recruiting and manning them have been very much the same; and there must
have been some hot work about the harbour of Palos in the summer of 1492.
The place was in a panic.  It is highly probable that many of the
volunteers were a ruffianly riff-raff from the prisons, to whom personal
freedom meant nothing but a chance of plunder; and the recruiting office
in Palos must have seen many a picturesque scoundrel coming and taking
the oath and making his mark.  The presence of these adventurers, many of
them entirely ignorant of the sea, would not be exactly an encouragement
to the ordinary seaman.  It is here very likely that the influence of the
Pinzon family was usefully applied.  I call it influence, since that is a
polite term which covers the application of force in varying degrees;
and it was an awkward thing for a Palos sailor to offend the Pinzons,
who owned and controlled so much of the shipping in the port.  Little by
little the preparations went on.  In the purchasing of provisions and
stores the Pinzons were most helpful to Columbus and, it is not
improbable, to themselves also.  They also procured the ships;
altogether, in the whole history of the fitting out of expeditions,
I know nothing since the voyage of the Ark which was so well kept within
one family.  Moreover it is interesting to notice, since we know the
names and places of residence of all the members of the expedition,
that the Pinzons, who personally commanded two of the caravels, had them
almost exclusively manned by sailors from Palos, while the Admiral’s ship
was manned by a miscellaneous crew from other places.  To be sure they
gave the Admiral the biggest ship, but (in his own words) it proved “a
dull sailer and unfit for discovery”; while they commanded the two
caravels, small and open, but much faster and handier.  Clearly these
Pinzons will take no harm from a little watching.  They may be honest
souls enough, but their conduct is just a little suspicious, and we
cannot be too careful.

Three vessels were at last secured.  The first, named the Santa Maria,
was the largest, and was chosen to be the flagship of Columbus.  She was
of about one hundred tons burden, and would be about ninety feet in
length by twenty feet beam.  She was decked over, and had a high poop
astern and a high forecastle in the bows.  She had three masts, two of
them square-rigged, with a latine sail on the mizzen mast; and she
carried a crew of fifty-two persons.  Where and how they all stowed
themselves away is a matter upon which we can only make wondering
guesses; for this ship was about the size of an ordinary small coasting
schooner, such as is worked about the coasts of these islands with a crew
of six or eight men.  The next largest ship was the Pinta, which was
commanded by Martin Alonso Pinzon, who took his brother Francisco with
him as sailing-master.  The Pinta was of fifty tons burden, decked only
at the bow and stern, and the fastest of the three ships; she also had
three masts.  The third ship was a caravel of forty tons and called the
Nina; she belonged to Juan Nino of Palos.  She was commanded by Vincenti
Pinzon, and had a complement of eighteen men.  Among the crew of the
flagship, whose names and places of residence are to be found in the
Appendix, were an Englishman and an Irishman.  The Englishman is entered
as Tallarte de Lajes (Ingles), who has been ingeniously identified with a
possible Allard or AEthelwald of Winchelsea, there having been several
generations of Allards who were sailors of Winchelsea in the fifteenth
century.  Sir Clements Markham thinks that this Allard may have been
trading to Coruna and have married and settled down at Lajes.  There is
also Guillermo Ires, an Irishman from Galway.

Allard and William, shuffling into the recruiting office in Palos,
doubtless think that this is a strange place for them to meet, and rather
a wild business that they are embarked upon, among all these bloody
Spaniards.  Some how I feel more confidence in Allard than in William,
knowing, as I do so well, this William of Galway, whether on his native
heath or in the strange and distant parts of the world to which his
sanguine temperament leads him.  Alas, William, you are but the first of
a mighty stream that will leave the Old Country for the New World; the
world destined to be good for the fortunes of many from the Old Country,
but for the Old Country itself not good.  Little does he know, drunken
William, willing to be on hand where there is adventure brewing, and to
be after going with the boys and getting his health on the salt water,
what a path of hope for those who go, and of heaviness for those who stay
behind, he is opening up .  .  .  .  Farewell, William; I hope you were
not one of those whom they let out of gaol.

June slid into July, and still the preparations were not complete.  Down
on the mud banks of the Tinto, where at low water the vessels were left
high and dry, and where the caulking and refitting were in hand, there
was trouble with the workmen.  Gomaz Rascon and Christoval Quintero, the
owners of the Pinta, who had resented her being pressed into the service,
were at the bottom of a good deal of it.  Things could not be found; gear
mysteriously gave way after it had been set up; the caulking was found to
have been carelessly and imperfectly done; and when the caulkers were
commanded to do it over again they decamped.  Even the few volunteers,
the picked hands upon whom Columbus was relying, gave trouble.  In those
days of waiting there was too much opportunity for talk in the shore-side
wine-shops; some of the volunteers repented and tried to cry off their
bargains; others were dissuaded by their relatives, and deserted and hid
themselves.  No mild measures were of any use; a reign of terror had to
be established; and nothing short of the influence of the Pinzons was
severe enough to hold the company together.  To these vigorous measures,
however, all opposition gradually yielded.  By the end of July the
provisions and stores were on board, the whole complement of eighty-seven
persons collected and enlisted, and only the finishing touches left for
Columbus.  It is a sign of the distrust and fear evinced with regard to
this expedition, that no priest accompanied it--something of a sorrow to
pious Christopher, who would have liked his chaplain.  There were two
surgeons, or barbers, and a physician; there were an overseer, a
secretary, a master-at-arms; there was an interpreter to speak to the
natives of the new lands in Hebrew, Greek, German, Chaldean or Arabic;
and there was an assayer and silversmith to test the quality of the
precious metals that they were sure to find.  Up at La Rabida, with the
busy and affectionate assistance of the old Prior, Columbus made his
final preparations.  Ferdinand was to stay at Cordova with Beatriz, and
to go to school there; while Diego was already embarked upon his life’s
voyage, having been appointed a page to the Queen’s son, Prince Juan, and
handed over to the care of some of the Court ladies.  The course to be
sailed was talked over and over again; the bearings and notes of the
pilot at Porto Santo consulted and discussed; and a chart was made by
Columbus himself, and copied with his own hands for use on the three

On the 2nd of August everything was ready; the ships moored out in the
stream, the last stragglers of the crew on board, the last sack of flour
and barrel of beef stowed away.  Columbus confessed himself to the Prior
of La Rabida--a solemn moment for him in the little chapel up on the
pine-clad hill.  His last evening ashore would certainly be spent at the
monastery, and his last counsels taken with Perez and Doctor Hernandez.
We can hardly realise the feelings of Christopher on the eve of his
departure from the land where all his roots were, to a land of mere faith
and conjecture.  Even today, when the ocean is furrowed by crowded
highways, and the earth is girdled with speaking wires, and distances are
so divided and reduced that the traveller need never be very long out of
touch with his home, few people can set out on a long voyage without some
emotional disturbance, however slight it may be; and to Columbus on this
night the little town upon which he looked down from the monastery, which
had been the scene of so many delays and difficulties and vexations, must
have seemed suddenly dear and familiar to him as he realised that after
to-morrow its busy and well-known scenes might be for ever a thing of the
past to him.  Behind him, living or dead, lay all he humanly loved and
cared for; before him lay a voyage full of certain difficulties and
dangers; dangers from the ships, dangers from the crews, dangers from
the weather, dangers from the unknown path itself; and beyond them, a
twinkling star on the horizon of his hopes, lay the land of his belief.
That he meant to arrive there and to get back again was beyond all doubt
his firm intention; and in the simple grandeur of that determination the
weaknesses of character that were grouped about it seem unimportant.  In
this starlit hour among the pine woods his life came to its meridian;
everything that was him was at its best and greatest there.  Beneath him,
on the talking tide of the river, lay the ships and equipment that
represented years of steady effort and persistence; before him lay the
pathless ocean which he meant to cross by the inner light of his faith.
What he had suffered, he had suffered by himself; what he had won, he had
won by himself; what he was to finish, he would finish by himself.

But the time for meditations grows short.  Lights are moving about in the
town beneath; there is an unwonted midnight stir and bustle; the whole
population is up and about, running hither and thither with lamps and
torches through the starlit night.  The tide is flowing; it will be high
water before dawn; and with the first of the ebb the little fleet is to
set sail.  The stream of hurrying sailors and townspeople sets towards
the church of Saint George, where mass is to be said and the Sacrament
administered to the voyagers.  The calls and shouts die away; the bell
stops ringing; and the low muttering voice of the priest is heard
beginning the Office.  The light of the candles shines upon the gaudy
roof, and over the altar upon the wooden image of Saint George
vanquishing the dragon, upon which the eyes of Christopher rested during
some part of the service, and where to-day your eyes may rest also if you
make that pilgrimage.  The moment approaches; the bread and the wine are
consecrated; there is a shuffling of knees and feet; and then a pause.
The clear notes of the bell ring out upon the warm dusky silence--once,
twice, thrice; the living God and the cold presence of dawn enter the
church together.  Every head is bowed; and for once at least every heart
of that company beats in unison with the rest.  And then the Office goes
on, and the dark-skinned congregation streams up to the sanctuary and
receives the Communion, while the blue light of dawn increases and the
candles pale before the coming day.  And then out again to the boats with
shoutings and farewells, for the tide has now turned; hoisting of sails
and tripping of anchors and breaking out of gorgeous ensigns; and the
ships are moving!  The Maria leads, with the sign of the Redemption
painted on her mainsail and the standard of Castile flying at her mizzen;
and there is cheering from ships and from shore, and a faint sound of
bells from the town of Huelva.

Thus, the sea being--calm, and a fresh breeze blowing off the land, did
Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos at sunrise on Friday the 3rd of
August 1492.



     “In nomine D.N. Jesu Christi--Friday, August 3, 1492, at eight
     o’clock we started from the bar of Saltes.  We went with a strong
     sea breeze sixty miles,--[Columbus reckoned in Italian miles, of
     which four = one league.]--which are fifteen leagues, towards the
     south, until sunset: afterwards to the south-west and to the south,
     quarter south-west, which was the way to the Canaries.”

     [The account of Columbus’s first voyage is taken from a Journal
     written by himself, but which in its original form does not exist.
     Las Casas had it in his possession, but as he regarded it (no doubt
     with justice) as too voluminous and discursive to be interesting, he
     made an abridged edition, in which the exact words of Columbus were
     sometimes quoted, but which for the most part is condensed into a
     narrative in the third person.  This abridged Journal, consisting of
     seventy-six closely written folios, was first published by
     Navarrette in 1825.  When Las Casas wrote his ‘Historie,’ however,
     he appears here and there to have restored sections of the original
     Journal into the abridged one; and many of these restorations are of
     importance.  If the whole account of his voyage written by Columbus
     himself were available in its exact form I would print it here; but
     as it is not, I think it better to continue my narrative, simply
     using the Journal of Las Casas as a document.]

With these rousing words the Journal of Columbus’s voyage begins; and
they sound a salt and mighty chord which contains the true diapason of
the symphony of his voyages.  There could not have been a more fortunate
beginning, with clear weather and a calm sea, and the wind in exactly
the right quarter.  On Saturday and Sunday the same conditions held, so
there was time and opportunity for the three very miscellaneous ships’
companies to shake down into something like order, and for all the
elaborate discipline of sea life to be arranged and established; and we
may employ the interval by noting what aids to navigation Columbus had
at his disposal.

The chief instrument was the astrolabe, which was an improvement on the
primitive quadrant then in use for taking the altitude of the sun.  The
astrolabe, it will be remembered, had been greatly improved, by Martin
Behaim and the Portuguese Commission in 1840--[1440  D.W.]; and it was
this instrument, a simplification of the astrolabe used in astronomy
ashore, that Columbus chiefly used in getting his solar altitudes.  As
will be seen from the illustration, its broad principle was that of a
metal circle with a graduated circumference and two arms pivoted in the
centre.  It was made as heavy as possible; and in using it the observer
sat on deck with his back against the mainmast and with his left hand
held up the instrument by the ring at the top.  The long arm was moved
round until the two sights fixed upon it were on with the sun.  The point
where the other arm then cut the circle gave the altitude.  In
conjunction with this instrument were used the tables of solar
declination compiled by Regiomontanus, and covering the sun’s declination
between the years 1475 and 1566.

The compass in Columbus’s day existed, so far as all essentials are
concerned, as it exists to-day.  Although it lacked the refinements
introduced by Lord Kelvin it was swung in double-cradles, and had the
thirty-two points painted upon a card.  The discovery of the compass, and
even of the lodestone, are things wrapt in obscurity; but the lodestone
had been known since at least the eleventh century, and the compass
certainly since the thirteenth.  With the compass were used the sea
charts, which were simply maps on a rather larger and more exact scale
than the land maps of the period.  There were no soundings or currents
marked on the old charts, which were drawn on a plane projection; and
they can have been of little--practical use to navigators except in the
case of coasts which were elaborately charted on a large scale.  The
chart of Columbus, in so far as it was concerned with the ocean westward
of the Azores, can of course have contained nothing except the
conjectured islands or lands which he hoped to find; possibly the land
seen by the shipwrecked pilot may have been marked on it, and his failure
to find that land may have been the reason why, as we shall see, he
changed his course to the southward on the 7th of October.  It must be
remembered that Columbus’s conception of the world was that of the
Portuguese Mappemonde of 1490, a sketch of which is here reproduced.
This conception of the world excluded the Pacific Ocean and the continent
of North and South America, and made it reasonable to suppose that any
one who sailed westward long enough from Spain would ultimately reach
Cathay and the Indies.  Behaim’s globe, which was completed in the year
1492, represented the farthest point that geographical knowledge had
reached previous to the discoveries of Columbus, and on it is shown the
island of Cipango or Japan.

By far the most important element in the navigation of Columbus, in so
far as estimating his position was concerned, was what is known as
“dead-reckoning” that is to say, the computation of the distance
travelled by the ship through the water.  At present this distance is
measured by a patent log, which in its commonest form is a
propeller-shaped instrument trailed through the water at the end of a
long wire or cord the inboard end of which is attached to a registering
clock.  On being dragged through the water the propeller spins round and
the twisting action is communicated by the cord to the clock-work
machinery which counts the miles.  In the case of powerful steamers and
in ordinary weather dead-reckoning is very accurately calculated by the
number of revolutions of the propellers recorded in the engine-room; and
a device not unlike this was known to the Romans in the time of the
Republic.  They attached small wheels about four feet in diameter to the
sides of their ships; the passage of the water turned the wheels, and a
very simple gearing was arranged which threw a pebble into a tallypot at
each revolution.  This device, however, seems to have been abandoned or
forgotten in Columbus’s day, when there was no more exact method of
estimating dead-reckoning than the primitive one of spitting over the
side in calm weather, or at other times throwing some object into the
water and estimating the rate of progress by its speed in passing the
ship’s side.  The hour-glass, which was used to get the multiple for
long distances, was of course the only portable time measurer available
for Columbus.  These, with a rough knowledge of astronomy, and the
taking of the altitude of the polar star, were the only known means for
ascertaining the position of his ship at sea.

The first mishap occurred on Monday, August 6th, when the Pinta carried
away her rudder.  The Pinta, it will be remembered, was commanded by
Martin Alonso Pinzon, and was owned by Gomaz Rascon and Christoval
Quintero, who had been at the bottom of some of the troubles ashore; and
it was thought highly probable that these two rascals had something to do
with the mishap, which they had engineered in the hope that their vessel
would be left behind at the Canaries.  Martin Alonso, however, proved a
man of resource, and rigged up a sort of steering gear with ropes.  There
was a choppy sea, and Columbus could not bring his own vessel near enough
to render any assistance, though he doubtless bawled his directions to
Pinzon, and looked with a troubled eye on the commotion going on on board
the Pinta.  On the next day the jury-rigged rudder carried away again,
and was again repaired, but it was decided to try and make the island of
Lanzarote in the Canaries, and to get another caravel to replace the
Pinta.  All through the next day the Santa Maria and the Nina had to
shorten sail in order not to leave the damaged Pinta behind; the three
captains had a discussion and difference of opinion as to where they
were; but Columbus, who was a genius at dead-reckoning, proved to be
right in his surmise, and they came in sight of the Canaries on Thursday
morning, August 9th.

Columbus left Pinzon on the Grand Canary with orders to try to obtain a
caravel there, while he sailed on to Gomera, which he reached on Sunday
night, with a similar purpose.  As he was unsuccessful he sent a message
by a boat that was going back to tell Pinzon to beach the Pinta and
repair her rudder; and having spent more days in fruitless search for a
vessel, he started back to join Pinzon on August 23rd.  During the night
he passed the Peak of Teneriffe, which was then in eruption.  The repairs
to the Pinta, doubtless in no way expedited by Messrs. Rascon and
Quintera, took longer than had been expected; it was found necessary to
make an entirely new rudder for her; and advantage was taken of the delay
to make some alterations in the rig of the Nina, which was changed from a
latine rig to a square rig, so that she might be better able to keep up
with the others.  September had come before these two jobs were
completed; and on the 2nd of September the three ships sailed for Gomera,
the most westerly of the islands, where they anchored in the north-east
bay.  The Admiral was in a great hurry to get away from the islands and
from the track of merchant ships, for he had none too much confidence in
the integrity of his crews, which were already murmuring and finding
every mishap a warning sign from God.  He therefore only stayed long
enough at Gomera to take in wood and water and provisions, and set sail
from that island on the 6th of September.

The wind fell lighter and lighter, and on Friday the little fleet lay
becalmed within sight of Ferro.  But on Saturday evening north-east airs
sprang up again, and they were able to make nine leagues of westing.  On
Sunday they had lost sight of land; and at thus finding their ships three
lonely specks in the waste of ocean the crew lost heart and began to
lament.  There was something like a panic, many of the sailors bursting
into tears and imploring Columbus to take them home again.  To us it may
seem a rather childish exhibition; but it must be remembered that these
sailors were unwillingly embarked upon a voyage which they believed would
only lead to death and disaster.  The bravest of us to-day, if he found
himself press-ganged on board a balloon and embarked upon a journey, the
object of which was to land upon Mars or the moon, might find it
difficult to preserve his composure on losing sight of the earth; and the
parallel is not too extreme to indicate the light in which their present
enterprise must have appeared to many of the Admiral’s crew.

Columbus gave orders to the captains of the other two ships that, in case
of separation, they were to sail westward for 700 leagues-that being the
distance at which he evidently expected to find land--and there to lie-to
from midnight until morning.  On this day also, seeing the temper of the
sailors, he began one of the crafty stratagems upon which he prided
himself, and which were often undoubtedly of great use to him; he kept
two reckonings, one a true one, which he entered in his log, and one a
false one, by means of which the distance run was made out to be less
than what it actually was, so that in case he could not make land as soon
as he hoped the crew would not be unduly discouraged.  In other words, he
wished to have a margin at the other end, for he did not want a mutiny
when he was perhaps within a few leagues of his destination.  On this day
he notes that the raw and inexperienced seamen were giving trouble in
other ways, and steering very badly, continually letting the ship’s
head fall off to the north; and many must have been the angry remonstrances
from the captain to the man at the wheel.  Altogether rather a trying day
for Christopher, who surely has about as much on his hands as ever mortal
had; but he knows how to handle ships and how to handle sailors, and so
long as this ten-knot breeze lasts, he can walk the high poop of the
Santa Maria with serenity, and snap his fingers at the dirty rabble

On Monday they made sixty leagues, the Admiral duly announcing
forty-eight; on Tuesday twenty leagues, published as sixteen; and on
this day they saw a large piece of a mast which had evidently belonged
to a ship of at least 120 tons burden.  This was not an altogether
cheerful sight for the eighteen souls on board the little Nina, who
wondered ruefully what was going to happen to them of forty tons when
ships three times their size had evidently been unable to live in this
abominable sea!

On Thursday, September 13th, when Columbus took his observations, he made
a great scientific discovery, although he did not know it at the time.
He noticed that the needle of the compass was declining to the west of
north instead of having a slight declination to the east of north, as all
mariners knew it to have.  In other words, he had passed the line of true
north and of no variation, and must therefore have been in latitude
28 deg. N.  and longitude 29 deg. 37’ W.  of Greenwich.  With his usual
secrecy he said nothing about it; perhaps he was waiting to see if the
pilots on the other ships had noticed it, but apparently they were not so
exact in their observations as he was.  On the next day, Friday, the wind
falling a little lighter, they, made only twenty leagues.  “Here the
persons on the caravel Nina said they had seen a jay and a ringtail, and
these birds never come more than twenty-five leagues from land at most.”
--Unhappy “persons on the Nina”!  Nineteen souls, including the captain,
afloat in a very small boat, and arguing God knows what from the fact
that a jay and a ringtail never went more than twenty-five leagues from
land!--The next day also was not without its incident; for on Saturday
evening they saw a meteor, or “marvellous branch of fire” falling from
the serene violet of the sky into the sea.

They were now well within the influence of the trade-wind, which in these
months blows steadily from the east, and maintains an exquisite and balmy
climate.  Even the Admiral, never very communicative about his
sensations, deigns to mention them here, and is reported to have said
that “it was a great pleasure to enjoy the morning; that nothing was
lacking except to hear the nightingales, and that the weather was like
April in Andalusia.”  On this day they saw some green grasses, which the
Admiral considered must have floated off from some island; “not the
continent,” says the Admiral, whose theories are not to be disturbed by a
piece of grass, “because I make the continental land farther onward.”
The crew, ready to take the most depressing and pessimistic view of
everything, considered that the lumps of grass belonged to rocks or
submerged lands, and murmured disparaging things about the Admiral.
As a matter of fact these grasses were masses of seaweed detached from
the Sargasso Sea, which they were soon to enter.

On Monday, September 17th, four days after Columbus had noted it, the
other pilots noted the declination of the needle, which they had found on
taking the position of the North star.  They did not like it; and
Columbus, whose knowledge of astronomy came to his aid, ordered them to
take the position of the North star at dawn again, which they did, and
found that the needles were true.  He evidently thought it useless to
communicate to them his scientific speculations, so he explained to them
that it was the North star which was moving in its circle, and not the
compass.  One is compelled to admit that in these little matters of
deceit the Admiral always shone.  To-day, among the seaweed on the ship’s
side, he picked up a little crayfish, which he kept for several days,
presumably in a bottle in his cabin; and perhaps afterwards ate.

So for several days this calm and serene progress westward was
maintained.  The trade-wind blew steady and true, balmy and warm also;
the sky was cloudless, except at morning and evening dusk; and there were
for scenery those dazzling expanses of sea and sky, and those gorgeous
hues of dawn and sunset, which are only to be found in the happy
latitudes.  The things that happened to them, the bits of seaweed and
fishes that they saw in the water, the birds that flew around them, were
observed with a wondering attention and wistful yearning after their
meaning such as is known only to children and to sailors adventuring on
uncharted seas.  The breezes were milder even than those of the Canaries,
and the waters always less salt; and the men, forgetting their fears of
the monsters of the Sea of Darkness, would bathe alongside in the limpid
blue.  The little crayfish was a “sure indication of land”; a tunny fish,
killed by the company on the Nina, was taken to be an indication from the
west, “where I hope in that exalted God, in whose hands are all
victories, that land will very soon appear”; they saw another ringtail,
“which is not accustomed to sleep on the sea”; two pelicans came to the
ship, “which was an indication that land was near”; a large dark cloud
appeared to the north, “which is a sign that land is near”; they saw one
day a great deal of grass, “although the previous day they had not seen
any”; they took a bird with their hands which was like a jay; “it was a
river bird and not a sea bird”; they saw a whale, “which is an indication
that they are near land, because they always remain near it”; afterwards
a pelican came from the west-north-west and went to the south-east,
“which was an indication that it left land to the west-north-west,
because these birds sleep on land and in the morning they come to the sea
in search of food, and do not go twenty leagues from land.”  And “at dawn
two or three small land birds came singing to the ships; and afterwards
disappeared before sunrise.”

Such beautiful signs, interpreted by the light of their wishes, were the
events of this part of the voyage.  In the meantime, they have their
little differences.  Martin Alonso Pinzon, on Tuesday, September 18th,
speaks from the Pinta to the Santa Maria, and says that he will not wait
for the others, but will go and make the land, since it is so near; but
apparently he does not get very far out of the way, the wind which wafts
him wafting also the Santa Maria and the Nina.

On September the 19th there was a comparison of dead-reckonings.  The
Nina’s pilot made it 440 leagues from the Canaries, the Pinta’s 420
leagues, and the Admiral’s pilot, doubtless instructed by the Admiral,
made it 400.  On Sunday the 23rd they were getting into the seaweed and
finding crayfish again; and there being no reasonable cause for complaint
a scare was got up among the crew on an exceedingly ingenious point.  The
wind having blown steadily from the east for a matter of three weeks,
they said that it would never blow in any other direction, and that they
would never be able to get back to Spain; but later in the afternoon the
sea got up from the westward, as though in answer to their fears, and as
if to prove that somewhere or other ahead of them there was a west wind
blowing; and the Admiral remarks that “the high sea was very necessary to
me, as it came to pass once before in the time when the Jews went out of
Egypt with Moses, who took them from captivity.”  And indeed there was
something of Moses in this man, who thus led his little rabble from a
Spanish seaport out across the salt wilderness of the ocean, and
interpreted the signs for them, and stood between them and the powers of
vengeance and terror that were set about their uncharted path.

But it appears that the good Admiral had gone just a little too far in
interpreting everything they saw as a sign that they were approaching
land; for his miserable crew, instead of being comforted by this fact,
now took the opportunity to be angry because the signs were not
fulfilled.  The more the signs pointed to their nearness to land, the
more they began to murmur and complain because they did not see it.  They
began to form together in little groups--always an ominous sign at sea
--and even at night those who were not on deck got together in murmuring
companies.  Some, of the things that they said, indeed, were not very far
from the truth; among others, that it was “a great madness on their part
to venture their lives in following out the madness of a foreigner who to
make himself a great lord had risked his life, and now saw himself and
all of them in great exigency and was deceiving so many people.”  They
remembered that his proposition, or “dream” as they not inaptly call it,
had been contradicted by many great and lettered men; and then followed
some very ominous words indeed.  They held

     [The substance of these murmurings is not in the abridged Journal,
     but is given by Las Casas under the date of September 24.]

that “it was enough to excuse them from whatever might be done in the
matter that they had arrived where man had never dared to navigate, and
that they were not obliged to go to the end of the world, especially as,
if they delayed more, they would not be able to have provisions to
return.”  In short, the best thing would be to throw him into the sea
some night, and make a story that he had fallen, into the water while
taking the position of a star with his astrolabe; and no one would ask
any questions, as he was a foreigner.  They carried this talk to the
Pinzons, who listened to them; after all, we have not had to wait long
for trouble with the Pinzons!  “Of these Pinzons Christopher Columbus
complains greatly, and of the trouble they had given him.”

There is only one method of keeping down mutiny at sea, and of preserving
discipline.  It is hard enough where the mutineers are all on one ship
and the commander’s officers are loyal to him; but when they are
distributed over three ships, the captains of two of which are willing to
listen to them, the problem becomes grave indeed.  We have no details of
how Columbus quieted them; but it is probable that his strong personality
awed them, while his clever and plausible words persuaded them.  He was
the best sailor of them all and they knew it; and in a matter of this
kind the best and strongest man always wins, and can only in a pass of
this kind maintain his authority by proving his absolute right to it.
So he talked and persuaded and bullied and encouraged and cheered them;
“laughing with them,” as Las Casas says, “while he was weeping at heart.”

Probably as a result of this unpleasantness there was on the following
day, Tuesday, September 25th, a consultation between: Martin Alonso
Pinzon and the Admiral.  The Santa Maria closed up with the Pinta, and a
chart was passed over on a cord.  There were islands marked on the chart
in this region, possibly the islands reported by the shipwrecked pilot,
possibly the island of Antilla; and Pinzon said he thought that they were
somewhere in the region of them, and the Admiral said that he thought so
too.  There was a deal of talk and pricking of positions on charts; and
then, just as the sun was setting, Martin Alonso, standing on the stern
of the Pinta, raised a shout and said that he saw land; asking
(business-like Martin) at the same time for the reward which had been
promised to the first one who should see land: They all saw it, a low
cloud to the southwest, apparently about twenty-five leagues distant;
and honest Christopher, in the emotion of the moment, fell on his knees
in gratitude to God.  The crimson sunset of that evening saw the rigging
of the three ships black with eager figures, and on the quiet air were
borne the sounds of the Gloria in Excelsis, which was repeated by each
ship’s company.

The course was altered to the south-west, and they sailed in that
direction seventeen leagues during the night; but in the morning there
was no land to be seen.  The sunset clouds that had so often deceived the
dwellers in the Canaries and the Azores, and that in some form or other
hover at times upon all eagerly scanned horizons, had also deceived
Columbus and every one of his people; but they created a diversion which
was of help to the Admiral in getting things quiet again, for which in
his devout soul he thanked the merciful providence of God.

And so they sailed on again on a westward course.  They were still in the
Sargasso Sea, and could watch the beautiful golden floating mass of the
gulf-weed, covered with berries and showing, a little way under the clear
water, bright green leaves.  The sea was as smooth as the river in
Seville; there were frigate pelicans flying about, and John Dorys in the
water; several gulls were seen; and a youth on board the Nina killed a
pelican with a stone.  On Monday, October 1st, there was a heavy shower
of rain; and Juan de la Cosa, Columbus’s pilot, came up to him with the
doleful information that they had run 578 leagues from the island of
Ferro.  According to Christopher’s doctored reckoning the distance
published was 584 leagues; but his true reckoning, about which he said
nothing to a soul, showed that they had gone 707 leagues.  The breeze
still kept steady and the sea calm; and day after day, with the temper of
the crews getting uglier and uglier, the three little vessels forged
westward through the blue, weed-strewn waters, their tracks lying
undisturbed far behind them.  On Saturday, October 6th, the Admiral was
signalled by Alonso Pinzon, who wanted to change the course to the
south-west.  It appears that, having failed to find the, islands of the
shipwrecked pilot, they were now making for the island of Cipango, and
that this request of Pinzon had something to do with some theory of his
that they had better turn to the south to reach that island; while
Columbus’s idea now evidently was--to push straight on to the mainland of
Cathay.  Columbus had his way; but the grumbling and murmuring in creased
among the crew.

On the next day, Sunday, and perhaps just in time to avert another
outbreak, there was heard the sound of a gun, and the watchers on the
Santa Maria and the Pinta saw a puff of smoke coming from the Nina, which
was sailing ahead, and hoisting a flag on her masthead.  This was the
signal agreed upon for the discovery of land, and it seemed as though
their search was at last at an end.  But it was a mistake.  In the
afternoon the land that the people of the Nina thought they had seen had
disappeared, and the horizon was empty except for a great flight of birds
that was seen passing from the north to the south-west.  The Admiral,
remembering how often birds had guided the Portuguese in the islands in
their possessions, argued that the birds were either going to sleep on
land or were perhaps flying from winter, which he assumed to be
approaching in the land from whence they came.  He therefore altered.
his course from west to west-south-west.  This course was entered upon an
hour before sunset and continued throughout the night and the next day.
“The sea was like the river of Seville,” says the Admiral; “the breezes
as soft as at Seville in April, and very fragrant.”  More birds were to
be seen, and there were many signs of land; but the crew, so often
disappointed in their hopeful interpretations of the phenomena
surrounding them, kept on murmuring and complaining.  On Tuesday, October
9th, the wind chopped round a little and the course was altered, first to
south-west and then at evening to a point north of west; and the journal
records that “all night they heard birds passing.”  The next day Columbus
resumed the west-southwesterly course and made a run of fifty-nine
leagues; but the mariners broke out afresh in their discontent, and
declined to go any farther.  They complained of the long voyage, and
expressed their views strongly to the commander.  But they had to deal
with a man who was determined to begin with, and who saw in the many
signs of land that they had met with only an additional inducement to go
on.  He told them firmly that with or without their consent he intended
to go on until he had found the land he had come to seek.

The next day, Thursday, October 11th, was destined to be for ever
memorable in the history of the world.  It began ordinarily enough, with
a west-south-west wind blowing fresh, and on a sea rather rougher than
they had had lately.  The people on the Santa Maria saw some petrels and
a green branch in the water; the Pinta saw a reed and two small sticks
carved with iron, and one or two other pieces of reeds and grasses that
had been grown on shore, as well as a small board.  Most wonderful of
all, the people of the Nina saw “a little branch full of dog roses”; and
it would be hard to estimate the sweet significance of this fragment of a
wild plant from land to the senses of men who had been so long upon a sea
from which they had thought never to land alive.  The day drew to its
close; and after nightfall, according to their custom, the crew of the
ships repeated the Salve Regina.  Afterwards the Admiral addressed the
people and sailors of his ship, “very merry and pleasant,” reminding them
of the favours God had shown them with regard to the weather, and begging
them, as they hoped to see land very soon, within an hour or so, to keep
an extra good look-out that night from the forward forecastle; and adding
to the reward of an annuity of 10,000 maravedis, offered by the Queen to
whoever should sight land first, a gift on his own account of a silk

The moon was in its third quarter, and did not rise until eleven o’clock.
The first part of the night was dark, and there was only a faint
starlight into which the anxious eyes of the look-out men peered from the
forecastles of the three ships.  At ten o’clock Columbus was walking on
the poop of his vessel, when he suddenly saw a light right ahead.  The
light seemed to rise and fall as though it were a candle or a lantern
held in some one’s hand and waved up and down.  The Admiral called Pedro
Gutierrez to him and asked him whether he saw anything; and he also saw
the light.  Then he sent for Rodrigo Sanchez and asked him if he saw the
light; but he did not, perhaps because from where he was standing it was
occulted.  But the others were left in no doubt, for the light was seen
once or twice more, and to the eyes of the anxious little group standing
on the high stern deck of the Santa Maria it appeared unmistakably.  The
Nina was not close at hand, and the Pinta had gone on in front hoping to
make good her mistake; but there was no doubt on board the Santa Maria
that the light which they had seen was a light like a candle or a torch
waved slowly up and down.  They lost the light again; and as the hours in
that night stole away and the moon rose slowly in the sky the seamen on
the Santa Maria must have almost held their breath.

At about two o’clock in the morning the sound of a gun was heard from the
Pinta, who could be seen hoisting her flags; Rodrigo de Triana, the
look-out on board of her, having reported land in sight; and there sure
enough in the dim light lay the low shores of an island a few miles ahead
of them.

Immediately all sails were lowered, except a small trysail which enabled
the ships to lie-to and stand slowly off and on, waiting for the
daylight.  I suppose there was never a longer night than that; but dawn
came at last, flooding the sky with lemon and saffron and scarlet and
orange, until at last the pure gold of the sun glittered on the water.
And when it rose it showed the sea-weary mariners an island lying in the
blue sea ahead of them: the island of Guanahani; San Salvador, as it was
christened by Columbus; or, to give it its modern name, Watling’s Island.



During the night the ships had drifted a little with the current, and
before the north-east wind.  When the look-out man on the Pinta first
reported land in sight it was probably the north-east corner of the
island, where the land rises to a height of 120 feet, that he saw.  The
actual anchorage of Columbus was most likely to the westward of the
island; for there was a strong north-easterly breeze, and as the whole of
the eastern coast is fringed by a barrier reef, he would not risk his
ships on a lee shore.  Finding himself off the north end of the island at
sunrise, the most natural thing for him to do, on making sail again,
would be to stand southward along the west side of the island looking for
an anchorage.  The first few miles of the shore have rocky exposed
points, and the bank where there is shoal water only extends half a mile
from the shore.  Immediately beyond that the bottom shelves rapidly down
to a depth of 2000 fathoms, so that if Columbus was sounding as he came
south he would find no bottom there.  Below what are called the Ridings
Rocks, however, the land sweeps to the south and east in a long sheltered
bay, and to the south of these rocks there is good anchorage and firm
holding-ground in about eight fathoms of water.

We may picture them, therefore, approaching this land in the bright
sunshine of the early morning, their ears, that had so long heard nothing
but the slat of canvas and the rush and bubble of water under the prows,
filled at last with the great resounding roar of the breakers on the
coral reef; their eyes, that had so long looked upon blue emptiness and
the star-spangled violet arch of night, feasting upon the living green of
the foliage ashore; and the easterly breeze carrying to their eager
nostrils the perfumes of land.  Amid an excitement and joyful
anticipation that it is exhilarating even to think about the cables were
got up and served and coiled on deck, and the anchors, which some of them
had thought would never grip the bottom again, unstopped and cleared.
The leadsman of the Santa Maria, who has been finding no bottom with his
forty-fathom line, suddenly gets a sounding; the water shoals rapidly
until the nine-fathom mark is unwetted, and the lead comes up with its
bottom covered with brown ooze.  Sail is shortened; one after another the
great ungainly sheets of canvas are clewed up or lowered down on deck;
one after another the three helms are starboarded, and the three ships
brought up to the wind.  Then with three mighty splashes that send the
sea birds whirling and screaming above the rocks the anchors go down; and
the Admiral stands on his high poop-deck, and looks long and searchingly
at the fragment of earth, rock-rimmed, surf-fringed, and tree-crowned, of
which he is Viceroy and Governor-General.

Watling’s Island, as it is now called, or San Salvador, as Columbus named
it, or Guanahani, as it was known to the aborigines, is situated in
latitude 24 deg. 6’ N., and longitude 74 deg 26’ W., and is an
irregularly shaped white sandstone islet in about the middle of the great
Bahama Bank.  The space occupied by the whole group is shaped like an
irregular triangle extending from the Navidad Bank in the Caribbean Sea
at the south-east corner, to Bahama Island in Florida Strait on the
north, about 200 miles.  The south side trends west by north for 600
miles, and the north side north-west by north 720 miles.  Most of the
islands and small rocks in this group, called Keys or Cays, are very low,
and rise only a few feet above the sea; the highest is about 400 feet
high.  They are generally situated on the edge of coral and sand banks,
some of which are of a very dangerous character.  They are thinly wooded,
except in the case of one or two of the larger islands which contain
timber of moderate dimensions.  The climate of the Bahamas is mild and
temperate, with refreshing sea breezes in the hottest months; and there
is a mean temperature of 75 deg. from November to April.  Watling’s
Island is about twelve miles in length by six in breadth, with rocky
shores slightly indented.  The greater part of its area is occupied by
salt-water lagoons, separated from one another by small wooded hills from
too to 140 feet high.  There is plenty of grass; indeed the island is now
considered to be the most fertile in the Bahamas, and raises an excellent
breed of cattle and sheep.  In common with the other islands of the group
it was originally settled by the Spaniards, and afterwards by the British,
who were driven from the Bahamas again by the Spanish in the year 1641.
After a great deal of changing hands they were ceded to Great Britain in
1783, and have remained in her possession ever since.  In 1897 the
population of the whole group was estimated at 52,000 the whites being in
the proportion of one to six of the coloured population.  Watling’s
Island contains about 600 inhabitants scattered over the surface, with a
small settlement called Cockburn Town on the west side, nearly opposite
the landfall of Columbus.  The seat of the local government is in the
island of New Providence, and the inhabitants of Watling’s Island and of
Rum Cay unite in sending one representative to the House of Assembly.  It
is high water, full and change, at Watling’s Island at 7 h. 40 m., as it
was in the days of Columbus; and these facts form about the sum of the
world’s knowledge of and interest in Watling’s Island to-day.

But it was a different matter on Friday morning, October 12, 1492, when,
all having been made snug on board the Santa Maria, the Admiral of the
Ocean Seas put on his armour and his scarlet cloak over it and prepared
to go ashore.

     [This date is reckoned in the old style.  The true astronomical date
     would be October 21st, which is the modern anniversary of the

The boat was lowered and manned by a crew well armed, and Columbus took
with him Rodrigo de Escovedo, the secretary to the expedition, and
Rodrigo Sanchez his overseer; they also took on board Martin Alonso
Pinzon and Vincenti Yanez Pinzon, the captains of the other two ships.
As they rowed towards the shore they saw a few naked inhabitants, who
hid themselves at their approach.  Columbus carried with him the royal
standard, and the two captains each had a banner of the expedition,
which was a square flag with an “F” and a “Y” upon either side, each
letter being surmounted by the crown of the sovereigns and a green cross
covering the whole.  Columbus assembled his little band around him and
called upon them to bear witness that in the presence of them all he was
taking possession of the island for the King and Queen of Spain; duly
making depositions in writing on the spot, and having them signed and
witnessed.  Then he gave the name of San Salvador to the island and said
a prayer; and while this solemn little ceremony was in progress, the
astonished natives crept out of their hiding and surrounded the strange
white men.  They gesticulated and grovelled and pointed upwards,
as though this gang of armed and bearded Spaniards, with the tall
white-bearded Italian in the midst of them, had fallen from the skies.

The first interest of the voyagers was in the inhabitants of this
delightful land.  They found them well built, athletic-looking men, most
of them young, with handsome bodies and intelligent faces.  Columbus,
eager to begin his missionary work, gave them some red caps and some
glass beads, with which he found them so delighted that he had good hopes
of making converts, and from which he argued that “they were a people who
would better be freed and converted to our Holy Faith by love than by
force,” which sentence of his contains within itself the whole missionary
spirit of the time.  These natives, who were the freest people in the
world, were to be “freed”; freed or saved from the darkness of their
happy innocence and brought to the light of a religion that had just
evolved the Inquisition; freed by love if possible, and by red caps and
glass beads; if not possible, then freed by force and with guns; but
freed they were to be at all costs.  It is a tragic thought that, at the
very first impact of the Old World upon this Eden of the West, this
dismal error was set on foot and the first links in the chain of slavery
forged.  But for the moment nothing of it was perceptible; nothing but
red caps and glass beads, and trinkets and toys, and freeing by love.
The sword that Columbus held out to them, in order to find out if they
knew the use of weapons, they innocently grasped by the blade and so cut
their fingers; and that sword, extended with knowledge and grasped with
fearless ignorance, is surely an emblem of the spread of civilisation and
of its doubtful blessings in the early stages.  Let us hear Columbus
himself, as he recorded his first impression of Guanahani:

     “Further, it appeared to me that they were a very poor people, in
     everything.  They all go naked as their mothers gave them birth, and
     the women also, although I only saw one of the latter who was very
     young, and all those whom I saw were young men, none more than
     thirty years of age.  They were very well built with very handsome
     bodies, and very good faces.  Their hair was almost as coarse as
     horses’ tails, and short, and they wear it over the eyebrows, except
     a small quantity behind, which they wear long and never cut.  Some
     paint themselves blackish, and they are of the colour of the
     inhabitants of the Canaries, neither black nor white, and some paint
     themselves white, some red, some whatever colour they find: and some
     paint their faces, some all the body, some only the eyes, and some
     only the nose.  They do not carry arms nor know what they are,
     because I showed them swords and they took them by the edge and
     ignorantly cut themselves.  They have no iron: their spears are
     sticks without iron, and some of them have a fish’s tooth at the end
     and others have other things.  They are all generally of good
     height, of pleasing appearance and well built: I saw some who had
     indications of wounds on their bodies, and I asked them by signs if
     it was that, and they showed me that other people came there from
     other islands near by and wished to capture them and they defended
     themselves: and I believed and believe, that they come here from the
     continental land to take them captive.  They must be good servants
     and intelligent, as I see that they very quickly say all that is
     said to them, and I believe that they would easily become
     Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no sect.  If it
     please our Lord, at the time of my departure, I will take six of
     them from here to your Highnesses that they may learn to speak.
     I saw no beast of any kind except parrots on this island.”

They very quickly say all that is said to them, and they will very easily
become good slaves; good Christians also it appears, since the Admiral’s
research does not reveal the trace of any religious sect.  And finally
“I will take six of them”; ostensibly that they may learn to speak the
language, but really that they may form the vanguard of cargo after cargo
of slaves ravished from their happy islands of dreams and sunshine and
plenty to learn the blessings of Christianity under the whip and the
sword.  It is all, alas, inevitable; was inevitable from the moment that
the keel of Columbus’s boat grated upon the shingle of Guanahani.  The
greater must prey upon the less, the stronger must absorb and dominate
the weaker; and the happy gardens of the Golden Cyclades must be spoiled
and wasted for the pleasure and enrichment of a corrupting civilisation.
But while we recognise the inevitable, and enter into the joy and pride
of Columbus and his followers on this first happy morning of their
landing, we may give a moment’s remembrance to the other side of the
picture, and admit that for this generation of innocents the discovery
that was to be all gain for the Old World was to be all loss to them.
In the meantime, decrees the Admiral, they are to be freed and converted;
and “I will take six of them that they may learn to speak.”

There are no paths or footprints left in the sea, and the water furrowed
on that morning more than four hundred years ago by the keels of
Columbus’s little fleet is as smooth and trackless as it was before they
clove it.  Yet if you approach Guanahani from the east during the hours
of darkness you also will see a light that waxes and wanes on the
horizon.  What the light was that Columbus saw is not certain; it was
probably the light from a torch held by some native woman from the door
of her hut; but the light that you will see is from the lighthouse on
Dixon Hill, where a tower of coral holds a lamp one hundred and sixty
feet above the sea at the north-east point of the island.  It was erected
in no sentimental spirit, but for very practical purposes, and at a date
when Watling’s Island had not been identified with the Guanahani of
Columbus’s landfall; and yet of all the monuments that have been raised
to him I can think of nothing more appropriate than this lonely tower
that stands by day amid the bright sunshine in the track of the trade
wind, and by night throws its powerful double flash every half-minute
across the dark lonely sea.  For it was by a light, although not of man’s
kindling, that Columbus was guided upon his lonely voyage and through his
many difficulties; amid all his trials and disappointments, dimly as it
must have burned sometimes, it never quite went out.  Darkness was the
name of the sea across which he took his way; darkness, from his
religious point of view, was the state of the lands to which he
journeyed; and, whatever its subsequent worth may have been, it was a
burning fragment from the living torch of the Christian religion that he
carried across the world with him, and by which he sought to kindle the
fire of faith in the lands of his discovery.  So that there is a profound
symbolism in those raying beams that now, night after night, month by
month, and year after year, shine out across the sea from Watling’s
Island in the direction of the Old World.

In the preparations for this voyage, and in the conduct and
accomplishment of it, the personality of the man Columbus stands clearly
revealed.  He was seen at his best, as all men are who have a chance of
doing the thing for which they are best fitted.  The singleness of aim
that can accomplish so much is made manifest in his dogged search for
means with which to make his voyage; and his Italian quality of
unscrupulousness in the means employed to attain a good end was exercised
to the full.  The, practical seaman in him carried him through the
easiest part of his task, which was the actual sailing of his ships from
Palos to Guanahani; Martin Alonso Pinzon could have done as much as that.
But no Martin Alonso Pinzon or any other man of that time known to
history had the necessary combination of defective and effective
qualities that made Columbus, once he had conceived his glorious hazy
idea, spend the best years of his life, first in acquiring the position
that would make him listened to by people powerful enough to help him,
and then in besieging them in the face of every rebuff and
discouragement.  Another man, proposing to venture across the unknown
ocean to unknown lands, would have required a fleet for his conveyance,
and an army for his protection; but Columbus asked for what he thought he
had some chance of getting, and for the barest equipment that would carry
him across the water.  Another man would at least have had a bodyguard;
but Columbus relied upon himself, and alone held his motley crew in the
bonds of discipline.  A Pinzon could have navigated the fleet from Palos
to Guanahani; but only a Columbus, only a man burning with belief is
himself and in his quest, could have kept that superstitious crowd of
loafers and malefactors and gaol-birds to their duties, and bent them to
his will.  He was destined in after years for situations which were
beyond his power to deal with, and for problems that were beyond his
grasp; but here at least he was supreme, master of himself and of his
material, and a ruler over circumstances.  The supreme thing that he had
professed to be able to do and which he had guaranteed to do was, in the
sublime simplicity of his own phrase, “to discover new lands,” and luck
or no luck, help or hindrance, he did it at the very first attempt and in
the space of thirty-five days.  And although it was from the Pinta that
the gun was fired, and the first loom of the actual land seen in the
early morning, I am glad to think that, of all the number of eager
watching men, it was Columbus who first saw the dim tossing light that
told him his journey was at an end.




Columbus did not intend to remain long at San Salvador.  His landfall
there, although it signified the realisation of one part of his dream,
was only the starting-point of his explorations in the New World.  Now
that he had made good his undertaking to “discover new lands,” he had to
make good his assurance that they were full of wealth and would swell the
revenues of the King and Queen of Spain.  A brief survey of this first
island was all he could afford time for; and after the first exquisite
impression of the white beach, and the blue curve of the bay sparkling in
the sunshine, and the soft prismatic colours of the acanthus beneath the
green wall of the woods had been savoured and enjoyed, he was anxious to
push on to the rich lands of the Orient of which he believed this island
to be only an outpost.

On the morning after his arrival the natives came crowding down to the
beach and got down their canoes, which were dug out of the trunk of a
single tree, and some of which were large enough to contain forty or
forty-five men: They came paddling out to the ship, sometimes, in the
case of the smaller canoes which only held one man, being upset by the
surf, and swimming gaily round and righting their canoes again and
bailing them out with gourds.  They brought balls of spun cotton, and
parrots and spears.  All their possessions, indeed, were represented in
the offerings they made to the strangers.  Columbus, whose eye was now
very steadily fixed on the main chance, tried to find out if they had any
gold, for he noticed that some of them wore in their noses a ring that
looked as though it were made of that metal; and by making signs he asked
them if there was any more of it to be had.  He understood them to say
that to the south of the island there dwelt a king who had large vessels
of gold, and a great many of them; he tried to suggest that some of the
natives should come and show him the way, but he “saw that they were not
interested in going.”

The story of the Rheingold was to be enacted over again, and the whole of
the evils that followed in its glittering train to be exemplified in this
voyage of discovery.  To the natives of these islands, who guarded the
yellow metal and loved it merely for its shining beauty, it was harmless
and powerless; they could not buy anything with it, nor did they seek by
its aid to secure any other enjoyments but the happiness of looking at it
and admiring it.  As soon as the gold was ravished from their keeping,
however, began the reign of lust and cruelty that always has attended and
always will attend the knowledge that things can be bought with it.  In
all its history, since first it was brought up from the dark bowels of
the earth to glitter in the light of day, there is no more significant
scene than this that took place on the bright sands of San Salvador so
long ago--Columbus attentively examining the ring in the nose of a happy
savage, and trying to persuade him to show him the place that it was
brought from; and the savage “not interested in going.”

From his sign-conversation with the natives Columbus understood that
there was land to the south or the south-west, and also to the
north-west, and that the people from the north-west went to the
south-west in search of gold and precious stones.  In the meantime he
determined to spend the Sunday in making a survey of the island, while
the rest of Saturday was passed in barterings with the natives, who were
very happy and curious to see all the strange things belonging to the
voyagers; and so innocent were their ideas of value that “they give all
they have for whatever thing may be given them.”  Columbus, however, who
was busy making calculations, would not allow the members of the crew to
take anything more on their own account, ordering that where any article
of commerce existed in quantity it was to be acquired for the sovereigns
and taken home to Spain.

Early on Sunday morning a boat was prepared from each ship, and a little
expedition began to row north about the island.  As they coasted the
white rocky shores people came running to the beach and calling to them;
“giving thanks to God,” says Columbus, although this is probably a flight
of fancy.  When they saw that the boats were not coming to land they
threw themselves into the water and came swimming out to them, bringing
food and drink.  Columbus noticed a tongue of land lying between the
north-west arm of the internal lagoon and the sea, and saw that by
cutting a canal through it entrance could be secured to a harbour that
would float “as many ships as there are in Christendom.”  He did not,
apparently, make a complete circuit of the island, but returned in the
afternoon to the ships, having first collected seven natives to take with
him, and got under way again; and before night had fallen San Salvador
had disappeared below the north-west horizon.

About midday he reached another island to the southeast.  He sailed along
the coast until evening, when he saw yet another island in the distance
to the south-west; and he therefore lay-to for the night.  At dawn the
next morning he landed on the island and took formal possession of it,
naming it Santa Maria de la Concepcion, which is the Rum Cay of the
modern charts.  As the wind chopped round and he found himself on a
lee-shore he did not stay there, but sailed again before night.  Two
of the unhappy prisoners from Guanahani at this point made good their
escape by swimming to a large canoe which one of the natives of the new
island had rowed out--a circumstance which worried Columbus not a
little; since he feared it would give him a bad name with the natives.
He tried to counteract it by loading with presents another native who
came to barter balls of cotton, and sending him away again.

The effect of all that he was seeing, of the bridge of islands that
seemed to be stretching towards the south-west and leading him to the
region of untold wealth, was evidently very stimulating and exciting to
Columbus.  His Journal is almost incoherent where he attempts to set down
all he has got to say.  Let us listen to him for a moment:

     “These islands are very green and fertile, and the breezes are very
     soft, and there may be many things which I do not know, because I
     did not wish to stop, in order to discover and search many islands
     to find gold.  And since these people make signs thus, that they
     wear gold on their arms and legs,--and it is gold, because I showed
     them some pieces which I have,--I cannot fail, with the aid of our
     Lord, in finding it where it is native.  And being in the middle of
     the gulf between these two islands, that is to say, the island of
     Santa Maria and this large one, which I named Fernandina, I found a
     man alone in a canoe who was going from the island of Santa Maria to
     Fernandina, and was carrying a little of his bread which might have
     been about as large as the fist, and a gourd of water, and a piece
     of reddish earth reduced to dust and afterwards kneaded, and some
     dry leaves--[Tobacco]--which must be a thing very much appreciated
     among them, because they had already brought me some of them as a
     present at San Salvador: and he was carrying a small basket of their
     kind, in which he had a string of small glass beads and two blancas,
     by which I knew that he came from the island of San Salvador, and
     had gone from there to Santa Maria and was going to Fernandina.  He
     came to the ship: I caused him to enter it, as he asked to do so,
     and I had his canoe placed on the ship and had everything which he
     was carrying guarded and I ordered that bread and honey be given him
     to eat and something to drink.  And I will go to Fernandina thus and
     will give him everything, which belongs to him, that he may give
     good reports of us.  So that, when your Highnesses send here, our
     Lord pleasing, those who come may receive honour and the Indians
     will give them of everything which they have.”

This hurried gabbling about gold and the aid of our Lord, interlarded
with fragments of natural and geographical observation, sounds strangely
across the gulf of time and impresses one with a disagreeable sense of
bewildered greed--like that of a dog gulping at the delicacies in his
platter and unwilling to do justice to one for fear the others should
escape him; and yet it is a natural bewilderment, and one with which we
must do our best to sympathise.

Fernandina was the name which Columbus had already given to Long Island
when he sighted it from Santa Maria; and he reached it in the evening of
Tuesday, October 16th.  The man in the canoe had arrived before him; and
the astute Admiral had the satisfaction of finding that once more his
cleverness had been rewarded, and that the man in the canoe had given
such glowing accounts of his generosity that there was no difficulty
about his getting water and supplies.  While the barrels of water were
being filled he landed and strolled about in the pleasant groves,
observing the islanders and their customs, and finding them on the whole
a little more sophisticated than those of San Salvador.  The women wore
mantillas on their heads and “little pieces of cotton” round their
loins-a sufficiently odd costume; and they appeared to Columbus to be a
little more astute than the other islanders, for though they brought
cotton in quantities to the ships they exacted payment of beads for it.
In the charm and wonder of his walk in this enchanted land he was able
for a moment to forget his hunger for gold and to admire the great
branching palm-trees, and the fish that

     “are here so different from ours that it is wonderful.  There are
     some formed like cocks of the finest colours in the world, blue,
     yellow, red and of all colours, and others tinted in a thousand
     manners: and the colours are so fine, that there is not a man who
     does not wonder at them, and who does not take great pleasure in
     seeing them.  Also, there are whales.  I saw no beasts on land of
     any kind except parrots and lizards.  A boy told me that he saw a
     large snake.  I did not see sheep nor goats, nor any other beast;
     although I have been here a very short time, as it is midday, still
     if there had been any, I could not have missed seeing some.”

Columbus was not a very good descriptive writer, and he has but two
methods of comparison; either a thing is like Spain, or it is not like
Spain.  The verdure was “in such condition as it is in the month of May
in Andalusia; and the trees  were all as different from ours as day from
night, and also the fruits and grasses and the stones and all the
things.”  The essay written by a cockney child after a day at the seaside
or in the country, is not greatly different from some of the verbatim
passages of this journal; and there is a charm in that fact too, for it
gives us a picture of Columbus, in spite of his hunt for gold and
precious stones, wandering, still a child at heart, in the wonders of the
enchanted world to which he had come.

There was trouble on this day, because some of the crew had found an
Indian with a piece of gold in his nose, and they got a scolding from
Columbus for not detaining him and bartering with him for it.  There was
bad weather also, with heavy rain and a threatening of tempest; there was
a difference of opinion with Martin Alonso Pinzon about which way they
should go round the island: but the next day the weather cleared, and the
wind settled the direction of their course for them.  Columbus, whose eye
never missed anything of interest to the sailor and navigator, notes thus
early a fact which appears in every book of sailing directions for the
Bahama Islands--that the water is so clear and limpid that the bottom can
be seen at a great depth; and that navigation is thus possible and even
safe among the rockstrewn coasts of the islands, when thus performed by
sight and with the sun behind the ship.  He was also keenly alive to
natural charm and beauty in the new lands that he was visiting, and there
are unmistakable fragments of himself in the journal that speak
eloquently of his first impressions.  “The singing of the little birds is
such that it appears a man would wish never to leave here, and the flocks
of parrots obscure the sun.”

But life, even to the discoverer of a New World, does not consist of
wandering in the groves, and listening to the singing birds, and smelling
the flowers, and remembering the May nights of Andalusia.  There was gold
to be found and the mainland of Cathay to be discovered, and a letter,
written by the sovereigns at his earnest request, to be delivered to the
Great Khan.  The natives had told him of an island called Samoete to the
southward, which was said to contain a quantity of gold.  He sailed
thither on the 19th, and called it Isabella; its modern name is Crooked
Island.  He anchored here and found it to be but another step in the
ascending scale of his delight; it was greener and more beautiful than
any of the islands he had yet seen.  He spent some time looking for the
gold, but could not find any; although he heard of the island of Cuba,
which he took to be the veritable Cipango.  He weighed anchor on October
24th and sailed south-west, encountering some bad weather on the way; but
on Sunday the 28th he came up with the north coast of Cuba and entered
the mouth of a river which is the modern Nuevitas.  To the island of Cuba
he gave the name of Juana in honour of the young prince to whom his son
Diego had been appointed a page.

If the other islands had seemed beautiful to him, Cuba seemed like heaven
itself.  The mountains grandly rising in the interior, the noble rivers
and long sweeping plains, the headlands melting into the clear water, and
the gorgeous colours and flowers and birds and insects on land acted like
a charm on Columbus and his sailors.  As they entered the river they
lowered a boat in order to go ahead and sound for an anchorage; and two
native canoes put off from the shore, but, when they saw the boat
approaching, fled again.  The Admiral landed and found two empty houses
containing nets and hooks and fishing-lines, and one of the strange
silent dogs, such as they had encountered on the other island--dogs that
pricked their ears and wagged their tails, but that never barked.  The
Admiral, in spite of his greed for gold and his anxiety to “free” the
people of the island, was now acting much more discreetly, and with the
genuine good sense which he always possessed and which was only sometimes
obscured.  He would not allow anything in the empty houses to be
disturbed or taken away, and whenever he saw the natives he tried to show
them that he intended to do them no harm, and to win their good will by
making them presents of beads and toys for which he would take no return.
As he went on up the river the scenery became more and more enchanting,
so that he felt quite unhappy at not being able to express all the
wonders and beauties that he saw.  In the pure air and under the serene
blue of the sky those matchless hues of blossom and foliage threw a
rainbow-coloured garment on either bank of the river; the flamingoes, the
parrots and woodpeckers and humming-birds calling to one another and
flying among the tree-tops, made the upper air also seem alive and shot
with all the colours of the rainbow.  Humble Christopher, walking amid
these gorgeous scenes, awed and solemnised by the strangeness and
magnificence of nature around him, tries to identify something that he
knows; and thinks, that amid all these strange chorusings of unknown
birds, he hears the familiar note of a nightingale.  Amid all his
raptures, however, the main chance is not forgotten; everything that he
sees he translates into some terms of practical utility.  Just as on the
voyage out every seaweed or fish or flying bird that he saw was hailed by
him as a sign that land was near, so amid the beauty of this virgin world
everything that he sees is taken to indicate either that he is close upon
the track of the gold, or that he must be in Cipango, or that the natives
will be easy to convert to Christianity.  In the fragrance of the woods
of Cuba, Columbus thought that he smelled Oriental spices, which Marco
Polo had described as abounding in Cipango; when he walked by the shore
and saw the shells of pearl oysters, he believed the island to be loaded
with pearls and precious stones; when he saw a scrap of tinsel or bright
metal adorning a native, he argued that there was a gold mine close at
hand.  And so he went on in an increasing whirl of bewildering
enchantment from anchorage to anchorage and from island to island, always
being led on by that yellow will o’-the-wisp, gold, and always believing
that the wealth of the Orient would be his on the morrow.  As he coasted
along towards the west he entered the river which he called Rio de Mares.
He found a large village here full of palm-branch houses furnished with
chairs and hammocks and adorned with wooden masks and statues; but in
spite of his gentleness and offer of gifts the inhabitants all fled to
the mountains, while he and his men walked curiously through the deserted

On Tuesday, October 30th, Martin Alonso Pinzon, whose communications the
Admiral was by this time beginning to dread, came with some exciting
news.  It seemed that the Indians from San Salvador who were on board the
Pinta had told him that beyond the promontory, named by Columbus the Cape
of Palms, there was a river, four days’ journey upon which would bring
one to the city of Cuba, which was very rich and large and abounded with
gold; and that the king of that country was at war with a monarch whom
they called Cami, and whom Pinzon identified with the Great Khan.  More
than this, these natives assured him that the land they were on at
present was the mainland itself, and that they could not be very far from
Cathay.  Columbus for once found himself in agreement with Martin Alonso.
The well-thumbed copy of Marco Polo was doubtless brought out, and
abundant evidence found in it; and it was decided to despatch a little
embassy to this city in order to gain information about its position and
wealth.  When they continued their course, however, and rounded the cape,
no river appeared; they sailed on, and yet promontory after promontory
was opened ahead of them; and as the wind turned against them and the
weather was very threatening they decided to turn back and anchor again
in the Rio de Mares.

Columbus was now, as he thought, hot upon the track of the Great Khan
himself; and on the first of November he sent boats ashore and told the
sailors to get information from the houses; but the inhabitants fled
shyly into the woods.  Having once postulated the existence of the Great
Khan in this immediate territory Columbus, as his habit was, found that
everything fitted with the theory; and he actually took the flight of the
natives, although it had occurred on a dozen other occasions, as a proof
that they mistook his bands of men for marauding expeditions despatched
by the great monarch himself.  He therefore recalled them, and sent a
boat ashore with an Indian interpreter who, standing in the boat at the
edge of the water, called upon the natives to draw near, and harangued
them.  He assured them of the peaceable intentions of the great Admiral,
and that he had nothing whatever to do with the Great Khan; which cannot
very greatly have thrilled the Cubans, who knew no more about the Great
Khan than they did about Columbus.  The interpreter then swam ashore and
was well received; so well, that in the evening some sixteen canoes came
off to the ships bringing cotton yarn and spears for traffic.  Columbus,
with great astuteness, forbade any trading in cotton or indeed in
anything at all except gold, hoping by this means to make the natives
produce their treasures; and he would no doubt have been successful if
the natives had possessed any gold, but as the poor wretches had nothing
but the naked skins they stood up in, and the few spears and pots and
rolls of cotton that they were offering, the Admiral’s astuteness was for
once thrown away.  There was one man, however, with a silver ring in his
nose, who was understood to say that the king lived four days’ journey in
the interior, and that messengers had been sent to him to tell him of the
arrival of the strange ships; which messengers would doubtless soon
return bringing merchants with them to trade with the ships.  If this
native was lying he showed great ingenuity in inventing the kind of story
that his questioners wanted; but it is more likely that his utterances
were interpreted by Columbus in the light of his own ardent beliefs.  At
any rate it was decided to send at once a couple of envoys to this great
city, and not to wait for the arrival of the merchants.  Two Spaniards,
Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, the interpreter to the expedition
--who had so far found little use for his Hebrew and Chaldean--were chosen;
and with them were sent two Indians, one from San Salvador and the other
a local native who went as guide.  Red caps and beads and hawks’ bells
were duly provided, and a message for the king was given to them telling
him that Columbus was waiting with letters and presents from Spanish
sovereigns, which he was to deliver personally.  After the envoys had
departed, Columbus, whose ships were anchored in a large basin of deep
water with a clean and steep beach, decided to take the opportunity of
having the vessels careened.  Their hulls were covered with shell and
weed; the caulking, which had been dishonestly done at Palos, had also
to be attended to; so the ships were beached and hove down one at a time
--an unnecessary precaution, as it turned out, for there was no sign of
treachery on the part of the natives.  While the men were making fires to
heat their tar they noticed that the burning wood sent forth a heavy
odour which was like mastic; and the Admiral, now always busy with
optimistic calculations, reckoned that there was enough in that vicinity
to furnish a thousand quintals every year.  While the work on the ships
was going forward he employed himself in his usual way, going ashore,
examining the trees and vegetables and fruits, and holding such
communication as he was able with the natives.  He was up every morning
at dawn, at one time directing the work of his men, at another going
ashore after some birds that he had seen; and as dawn comes early in
those islands his day was probably a long one, and it is likely that he
was in bed soon after dark.  On the day that he went shooting, Martin
Alonso Pinzon was waiting for him on his return; this time not to make
any difficulties or independent proposals, but to show him two pieces of
cinnamon that one of his men had got from an Indian who was carrying a
quantity of it.  “Why did the man not get it all from him?” says greedy
Columbus.  “Because of the prohibition of the Admiral’s that no one
should do any trading,” says Martin Alonso, and conceives himself to have
scored; for truly these two men do not love one another.  The boatswain
of the Pinta, adds Martin Alonso, has found whole trees of it.  “The
Admiral then went there and found that it was not cinnamon.”  The Admiral
was omnipotent; if he had said that it was manna they would have had to
make it so, and as he chose to say that it was not cinnamon, we must take
his word for it, as Martin Alonso certainly had to do; so that it was the
Admiral who scored this time.  Columbus, however, now on the track of
spices, showed some cinnamon and pepper to the natives; and the obliging
creatures “said by signs that there was a great deal of it towards the
south-east.”  Columbus then showed them some gold and pearls; and
“certain old men” replied that in a place they called Bo-No there was any
amount of gold; the people wore it in their ears and on their arms and
legs, and there were pearls also, and large ships and merchandise--all to
the south-east.  Finding this information, which was probably entirely
untrue and merely a polite effort to do what was expected of them, well
received, the natives added that “a long distance from there, there were
men with one eye, and other men with dogs’ snouts who ate men, and that
when they caught a man they beheaded him and drank his blood.” .  .  .
Soon after this the Admiral went on board again and began to write up his
Journal, solemnly entering all these facts in it.  It is the most
childish nonsense; but after all, how interesting and credible it must
have been!  To live thus smelling the most heavenly perfumes, breathing
the most balmy air, viewing the most lovely scenes, and to be always hot
upon the track of gold and pearls and spices and wealth and dog-nosed,
blood-drinking monstrosities--what an adventure, what a vivid piece of

After a few days--on Tuesday, November 6th--the two men who had been sent
inland to the great and rich city came back again with their report.
Alas for visions of the Great Khan!  The city turned out to be a village
of fifty houses with twenty people in each house.  The envoys had been
received with great solemnity; and all the men “as well as the women”
came to see them, and lodged them in a fine house.  The chief people in
the village came and kissed their hands and feet, hailing them as
visitors from the skies, and seating them in two chairs, while they sat
round on the floor.  The native interpreter, doubtless according to
instructions, then told them “how the Christians lived and how they were
good people”; and I would give a great deal to have heard that brief
address.  Afterwards the men went out and the women came in, also kissing
the hands and feet of the visitors, and “trying them to see if they were
of flesh and of bone like themselves.”  The results were evidently so
satisfactory that the strangers were implored to remain at least five
days.  The real business of the expedition was then broached.  Had they
any gold or pearls?  Had they any cinnamon or spices?  Answer, as usual:
“No, but they thought there was a great deal of it to the south-east.”
The interest of the visitors then evaporated, and they set out for the
coast again; but they found that at least five hundred men and women
wanted to come with them, since they believed that they were returning to
heaven.  On their journey back the two Spaniards noticed many people
smoking, as the Admiral himself had done a few days before; and this is
the first known discovery of tobacco by Europeans.

They saw a great many geese, and the strange dogs that did not bark, and
they saw potatoes also, although they did not know what they were.
Columbus, having heard this report, and contemplating these gentle
amiable creatures, so willing to give all they had in return for a scrap
of rubbish, feels his heart lifted in a pious aspiration that they might
know the benefits of the Christian religion.  “I have to say, Most Serene
Princes,” he writes,

     “that by means of devout religious persons knowing their language
     well, all would soon become Christians: and thus I hope in our Lord
     that Your Highnesses will appoint such persons with great diligence
     in order to turn to the Church such great peoples, and that they
     will convert them, even as they have destroyed those who would not
     confess the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: and after their
     days, as we are all mortal, they will leave their realms--in a very
     tranquil condition and freed from heresy and wickedness, and will be
     well received before the Eternal Creator, Whom may it please to give
     them a long life and a great increase of larger realms and
     dominions, and the will and disposition to spread the holy Christian
     religion, as they have done up to the present time, Amen.  To-day I
     will launch the ship and make haste to start on Thursday, in the
     name of God, to go to the southeast and seek gold and spices, and
     discover land.”
                    Thus Christopher Columbus, in the Name of God,

     November 11, 1492.



When Columbus weighed anchor on the 12th of November he took with him six
captive Indians.  It was his intention to go in search of the island of
Babeque, which the Indians alleged lay about thirty leagues to the
east-south-east, and where, they said, the people gathered gold out of the
sand with candles at night, and afterwards made bars of it with a hammer.
They told him this by signs; and we have only one more instance of the
Admiral’s facility in interpreting signs in favour of his own beliefs.
It is only a few days later that in the same Journal he says, “The people
of these lands do not understand me, nor do I nor any other person I have
with me understand them; and these Indians I am taking with me, many
times understand things contrary to what they are.”  It was a fault at
any rate not exclusively possessed by the Indians, who were doubtless
made the subject of many philological experiments on the part of the
interpreter; all that they seemed to have learned at this time were
certain religious gestures, such as making the Sign of the Cross, which
they did continually, greatly to the edification of the crew.

In order to keep these six natives in a good temper Columbus kidnapped
“seven women, large and small, and three children,” in order, he alleged,
that the men might conduct themselves better in Spain because of having
their “wives” with them; although whether these assorted women were
indeed the wives of the kidnapped natives must at the best be a doubtful
matter.  The three children, fortunately, had their father and mother
with them; but that was only because the father, having seen his wife and
children kidnapped, came and offered to go with them of his own accord.
This taking of the women raises a question which must be in the mind of
any one who studies this extraordinary voyage--the question of the
treatment of native women by the Spaniards.  Columbus is entirely silent
on the subject; but taking into account the nature of the Spanish rabble
that formed his company, and his own views as to the right which he had
to possess the persons and goods of the native inhabitants, I am afraid
that there can be very little doubt that in this matter there is a good
reason, for his silence.  So far as Columbus himself was concerned, it is
probable that he was innocent enough; he was not a sensualist by nature,
and he was far too much interested and absorbed in the principal objects
of his expedition, and had too great a sense of his own personal dignity,
to have indulged in excesses that would, thus sanctioned by him, have
produced a very disastrous effect on the somewhat rickety discipline of
his crew.  He was too wise a master, however, to forbid anything that it
was not in his power to prevent; and it is probable that he shut his eyes
to much that, if he did not tolerate it, he at any rate regarded as a
matter of no very great importance.  His crew had by this time learned to
know their commander well enough not to commit under his eyes offences
for which he would have been sure to punish them.

For two days they ran along the coast with a fair wind; but on the 14th a
head wind and heavy sea drove them into the shelter of a deep harbour
called by Columbus Puerto del Principe, which is the modern Tanamo.  The
number of islands off this part of the coast of Cuba confirmed Columbus
in his profound geographical error; he took them to be “those innumerable
islands which in the maps of the world are placed at the end of the
east.”  He erected a great wooden cross on an eminence here, as he always
did when he took possession of a new place, and made some boat excursions
among the islands in the harbour.  On the 17th of November two of the six
youths whom he had taken on board the week before swam ashore and
escaped.  When he started again on his voyage he was greatly
inconvenienced by the wind, which veered about between the north and
south of east, and was generally a foul wind for him.  There is some
difference of opinion as to what point of the wind the ships of
Columbus’s time would sail on; but there is no doubt that they were
extremely unhandy in anything approaching a head wind, and that they were
practically no good at all at beating to windward.  The shape of their
hulls, the ungainly erections ahead and astern, and their comparatively
light hold on the water, would cause them to drift to leeward faster than
they could work to windward.  In this head wind, therefore, Columbus
found that he was making very little headway, although he stood out for
long distances to the northward.  On Wednesday, November 21st, occurred a
most disagreeable incident, which might easily have resulted in the
Admiral’s never reaching Spain alive.  Some time in the afternoon he
noticed the Pinta standing away ahead of him in a direction which was not
the course which he was steering; and he signalled her to close up with
him.  No answer, however, was made to his signal, which he repeated, but
to which he failed to attract any response.  He was standing south at the
time, the wind being well in the north-east; and Martin Alonso Pinzon,
whose caravel pointed into the wind much better than the unhandy Santa
Maria, was standing to the east.  When evening fell he was still in
sight, at a distance of sixteen miles.  Columbus was really concerned,
and fired lombards and flew more signals of invitation; but there was no
reply.  In the evening he shortened sail and burned a torch all night,
“because it appeared that Martin Alonso was returning to me; and the
night was very clear, and there was a nice little breeze by which to come
to me if he wished.”  But he did not wish, and he did not come.

Martin Alonso has in fact shown himself at last in his true colours.  He
has got the fastest ship, he has got a picked company of his own men from
Palos; he has got an Indian on board, moreover, who has guaranteed to
take him straight to where the gold is; and he has a very agreeable plan
of going and getting it, and returning to Spain with the first news and
the first wealth.  It is open mutiny, and as such cannot but be a matter
of serious regret and trouble to the Admiral, who sits writing up his
Journal by the swinging lamp in his little cabin.  To that friend and
confidant he pours out his troubles and his long list of grievances
against Martin Alonso; adding, “He has done and said many other things
to me.”  Up on deck the torch is burning to light the wanderer back
again, if only he will come; and there is “a nice little breeze” by which
to come if he wishes; but Martin Alonso has wishes quite other than that.

The Pinta was out of sight the next morning, and the little Nina was all
that the Admiral had to rely upon for convoy.  They were now near the
east end of the north coast of Cuba, and they stood in to a harbour which
the Admiral called Santa Catalina, and which is now called Cayo de Moa.
As the importance of the Nina to the expedition had been greatly
increased by the defection of the Pinta, Columbus went on board and
examined her.  He found that some of her spars were in danger of giving
way; and as there was a forest of pine trees rising from the shore he was
able to procure a new mizzen mast and latine yard in case it should be
necessary to replace those of the Nina.  The next morning he weighed
anchor at sunrise and continued east along the coast.  He had now arrived
at the extreme end of Cuba, and was puzzled as to what course he should
take.  Believing Cuba, as he did, to be the mainland of Cathay, he would
have liked to follow the coast in its trend to the south-west, in the
hope of coming upon the rich city of Quinsay; but on the other hand there
was looming to the south-west some land which the natives with him
assured him was Bohio, the place where all the gold was.  He therefore
held on his course; but when the Indians found that he was really going
to these islands they became very much alarmed, and made signs that the
people would eat them if they went there; and, in order further to
dissuade the Admiral, they added that the people there had only one eye,
and the faces, of dogs.  As it did not suit Columbus to believe them he
said that they were lying, and that he “felt” that the island must belong
to the domain of the Great Khan.  He therefore continued his course,
seeing many beautiful and enchanting bays opening before him, and longing
to go into them, but heroically stifling his curiosity, “because he was
detained more than he desired by the pleasure and delight he felt in
seeing and gazing on the beauty and freshness of those countries wherever
he entered, and because he did not wish to be delayed in prosecuting what
he was engaged upon; and for these reasons he remained that night beating
about and standing off and on until day.”  He could not trust himself,
that is to say, to anchor in these beautiful harbours, for he knew he
would be tempted to go ashore and waste valuable time exploring the
woods; and so he remained instead, beating about in the open sea.

As it was, what with contrary winds and his own indecision as to which
course he should pursue, it was December the 6th before he came up with
the beautiful island of Hayti, and having sent the Nina in front to
explore for a harbour, entered the Mole Saint Nicholas, which he called
Puerto Maria.  Towards the east he saw an island shaped like a turtle,
and this island he named Tortuga; and the harbour, which he entered that
evening on the hour of Vespers, he called Saint Nicholas, as it was the
feast of that saint.  Once more his description flounders among
superlatives: he thought Cuba was perfect; but he finds the new island
more perfect still.  The climate is like May in Cordova; the tracts of
arable land and fertile valleys and high mountains are like those in
Castile; he finds mullet like those of Castile; soles and other fish like
those in Castile; nightingales and other small birds like those in
Castile; myrtle and other trees and grasses like those in Castile!  In
short, this new land is so like Spain, only more wonderful and beautiful,
that he christens it Espanola.

They stayed two days in the harbour of Saint Nicholas, and then began to
coast eastwards along the shores of Espaniola.  Their best progress was
made at dawn and sunset, when the land breeze blew off the island; and
during the day they encountered a good deal of colder weather and
easterly winds, which made their progress slow.  Every day they put in at
one or other of the natural harbours in which that beautiful coast
abounds; every day they saw natives on the shores who generally fled at
their approach, but were often prevailed upon to return and to converse
with the natives on board the Admiral’s ship, and to receive presents and
bring parrots and bits of gold in exchange.  On one day a party of men
foraging ashore saw a beautiful young girl, who fled at their approach;
and they chased her a long way through the woods, finally capturing her
and bringing her on board.  Columbus “caused her to be clothed”
--doubtless a diverting occupation for Rodrigo, Juan, Garcia, Pedro,
William, and the rest of them, although for the poor, shy, trembling
captive not diverting at all--and sent her ashore again loaded with beads
and brass rings--to act as a decoy.  Having sown this good seed the
Admiral waited for a night, and then sent a party of men ashore, “well
prepared with arms and adapted for such an affair,” to have some
conversation with the people.  The innocent harvest was duly reaped; the
natives met the Spaniards with gifts of food and drink, and understanding
that the Admiral would like to have a parrot, they sent as many parrots
as were wanted.  The husband of the girl who had been captured and
clothed came back with her to the shore with a large body of natives,
in order to thank the Admiral for his kindness and clemency; and their
confidence was not misplaced, as the Admiral did not at that moment wish
to do any more kidnapping.  The Spaniards were more and more amazed and
impressed with the beauty and fertility of these islands.  The lands were
more lovely than the finest land in Castile; the rivers were large and
wide, the trees green and full of fruit, the grasses knee-deep and
starred with flowers; the birds sang sweetly all night; there were mastic
trees and aloes and plantations of cotton.  There was fishing in plenty;
and if there were not any gold mines immediately at hand, they here sure
to be round the next headland or, at the farthest, in the next island.
The people, too, charmed and delighted the Admiral, who saw in them a
future glorious army of souls converted to the Christian religion.  They
were taller and handsomer than the inhabitants of the other islands, and
the women much fairer; indeed, if they had not been so much exposed to
the sun, and if they could only be clothed in the decent garments of
civilisation, the Admiral thought that their skins would be as white as
those of the women of Spain--which was only another argument for bringing
them within the fold of the Holy Catholic Church.  The men were powerful
and apparently harmless; they showed no truculent or suspicious spirit;
they had no knowledge of arms; a thousand of them would not face three
Christians; and

     “so they are suitable to be governed and made to work and sow and do
     everything else that shall be necessary, and to build villages and
     be taught to wear clothing and observe our customs.”

At present, you see, they are but poor happy heathens, living in a
paradise of their own, where the little birds sing all through the warm
nights, and the rivers murmur through flowery meadows, and no one has any
knowledge of arms or desire of such knowledge, and every one goes naked
and unashamed.  High time, indeed, that they should be taught to wear
clothing and observe our customs.

The local chief came on a visit of state to the ship; and the Admiral
paid him due honour, telling him that he came as an envoy from the
greatest sovereigns in the world.  But this charming king, or cacique as
they called him, would not believe this; he thought that Columbus was,
for reasons of modesty, speaking less than the truth--a new charge to
bring against our Christopher!  He believed that the Spaniards came from
heaven, and that the realms of the sovereigns of Castile were in the
heavens and not in this world.  He took some refreshment, as his
councillors did also, little dreaming, poor wretches, what in after years
was to come to them through all this palavering and exchanging of
presents.  The immediate result of the interview, however, was to make
intercourse with the natives much freer and pleasanter even than it had
been before; and some of the sailors went fishing with the natives.
It was then that they were shown some cane arrows with hardened points,
which the natives said belonged to the people of ‘Caniba’, who, they
alleged, came to the island to capture and eat the natives.  The Admiral
did not believe it; his sublime habit of rejecting everything that did
not fit in with his theory of the moment, and accepting everything that
did, made him shake his head when this piece of news was brought to him.
He could not get the Great Khan out of his head, and his present theory
was that this island, being close to the mainland of Cathay, was visited
by the armies of the Great Khan, and that it was his men who had used the
arrows and made war upon the natives.  It was no good for the natives to
show him some of their mutilated bodies, and to tell him that the
cannibals ate them piecemeal; he had no use for such information.  His
mind was like a sieve of which the size of the meshes could be adjusted
at will; everything that was not germane to the idea of the moment fell
through it, and only confirmative evidence remained; and at the moment he
was not believing any stories which did not prove that the Great Khan
was, so to speak, just round the corner.  If they talked about gold he
would listen to them; and so the cacique brought him a piece of gold the
size of his hand and, breaking it into pieces, gave it to him a bit at a
time.  This the Admiral took to be sign of great intelligence.  They told
him there was gold at Tortuga, but he preferred to believe that it came
from Babeque, which may have been Jamaica and may have been nothing at

But his theory was that it existed on Espanola only in small pieces
because that country was so rich that the natives had no need for it;
an economic theory which one grows dizzy in pondering.  At any rate
“the Admiral believed that he was very near the fountainhead, and that
Our Lord was about to show him where the gold originates.”

On Tuesday, December 18th, the ships were all dressed in honour of a
religious anniversary, and the cacique, hearing the firing of the
lombards with which the festival was greeted, came down to the shore to
see what was the matter.  As Columbus was sitting at dinner on deck
beneath the poop the cacique arrived with all his people; and the account
of his visit is preserved in Columbus’s own words.

     “As he entered the ship he found that I was eating at the table
     below the stern forecastle, and he came quickly to seat himself
     beside me, and would not allow me to go to meet him or get up from
     the table, but only that I should eat.  I thought that he would like
     to eat some of our viands and I then ordered that things should be
     brought him to eat.  And when he entered under the forecastle, he
     signed with his hand that all his people should remain without, and
     they did so with the greatest haste and respect in the world, and
     all seated themselves on the deck, except two men of mature age whom
     I took to be his counsellors and governors, and who came and seated
     themselves at his feet: and of the viands which I placed before him
     he took of each one as much as may be taken for a salutation, and
     then he sent the rest to his people and they all ate some of it, and
     he did the same with the drink, which he only touched to his mouth,
     and then gave it to the others in the same way, and it was all done
     in wonderful state and with very few words, and whatever he said,
     according to what I was able to understand, was very formal and
     prudent, and those two looked in his face and spoke for him and with
     him, and with great respect.

     “After eating, a page brought a belt which is like those of Castile
     in shape, but of a different make, which he took and gave me, and
     also two wrought pieces of gold, which were very thin, as I believe
     they obtain very little of it here, although I consider they are
     very near the place where it has its home, and that there is a great
     deal of it.  I saw that a drapery that I had upon my bed pleased
     him.  I gave it to him, and some very good amber beads which I wore
     around my neck and some red shoes and a flask of orange-flower
     water, with which he was so pleased it was wonderful; and he and his
     governor and counsellors were very sorry that they did not
     understand me, nor I them.  Nevertheless I understood that he told
     me that if anything from here would satisfy me that all the island
     was at my command.  I sent for some beads of mine, where as a sign I
     have a ‘excelente’ of gold upon which the images of your Highnesses
     are engraved, and showed it to him, and again told him the same as
     yesterday, that your Highnesses command and rule over all the best
     part of the world, and that there are no other such great Princes:
     and I showed him the royal banners and the others with the cross,
     which he held in great estimation: and he said to his counsellors
     that your Highnesses must be great Lords, since you had sent me here
     from so far without fear: and many other things happened which I did
     not understand, except that I very well saw he considered everything
     as very wonderful.”

Later in the day Columbus got into talk with an old man who told him that
there was a great quantity of gold to be found on some island about a
hundred leagues away; that there was one island that was all gold; and
that in the others there was such a quantity that they natives gathered
it and sifted it with sieves and made it into bars.  The old man pointed
out vaguely the direction in which this wonderful country lay; and if he
had not been one of the principal persons belonging to the King Columbus
would have detained him and taken him with him; but he decided that he
had paid the cacique too much respect to make it right that he should
kidnap one of his retinue.  He determined, however, to go and look for
the gold.  Before he left he had a great cross erected in the middle of
the Indian village; and as he made sail out of the harbour that evening
he could see the Indians kneeling round the cross and adoring it.  He
sailed eastward, anchoring for a day in the Bay of Acul, which he called
Cabo de Caribata, receiving something like an ovation from the natives,
and making them presents and behaving very graciously and kindly to them.

It was at this time that Columbus made the acquaintance of a man whose
character shines like a jewel amid the dismal scenes that afterwards
accompanied the first bursting of the wave of civilisation on these happy
shores.  This was the king of that part of the island, a young man named
Guacanagari.  This king sent out a large canoe full of people to the
Admiral’s ship, with a request that Columbus would land in his country,
and a promise that the chief would give him whatever he had.  There
must have been an Intelligence Department in the island, for the chief
seemed to know what would be most likely to attract the Admiral; and with
his messengers he sent out a belt with a large golden mask attached to
it.  Unfortunately the natives on board the Admiral’s ship could not
understand Guacanagari’s messengers, and nearly the whole of the day was
passed in talking before the sense of their message was finally made out
by means of signs.  In the evening some Spaniards were sent ashore to see
if they could not get some gold; but Columbus, who had evidently had some
recent experience of their avariciousness, and who was anxious to keep on
good terms with the chiefs of the island, sent his secretary with them to
see that they did nothing unjust or unreasonable.  He was scrupulous to
see that the natives got their bits of glass and beads in exchange for
the gold; and it is due to him to remember that now, as always, he was
rigid in regulating his conduct with other men in accordance with his
ideas of justice and honour, however elastic those ideas may seem to have
been.  The ruffianly crew had in their minds only the immediate
possession of what they could get from the Indians; the Admiral had in
his mind the whole possession of the islands and the bodies and souls of
its inhabitants.  If you take a piece of gold without giving a glass bead
in exchange for it, it is called stealing; if you take a country and its
inhabitants, and steal their peace from them, and give them blood and
servitude in exchange for it, it is called colonisation and
Empire-building.  Every one understands the distinction; but so few
people see the difference that Columbus of all men may be excused for
his unconsciousness of it.

Indeed Columbus was seeing yellow at this point in his career.  The word
“gold” is scattered throughout every page of his journal; he can
understand nothing that the natives say to him except that there is a
great quantity of gold somewhere about.  He is surrounded by natives
pressing presents upon him, protesting their homage, and assuring him (so
he thinks) that there are any amount of gold mines; and no wonder that
the yellow light blinds his eyes and confounds his senses, and that
sometimes, even when the sun has gone down and the natives have retired
to their villages and he sits alone in the seclusion of his cabin, the
glittering motes still dance before his eyes and he becomes mad, maudlin,
ecstatic .  .  .  .  The light flickers in the lamp as the ship swings a
little on the quiet tide and a night breeze steals through the cabin
door; the sound of voices ashore sounds dimly across the water; the brain
of the Admiral, overfilled with wonders and promises and hopes, sends its
message to the trembling hand that holds the pen, and the incoherent
words stream out on the ink.  “May our Lord in His mercy direct me until
I find this gold, I say this Mine, because I have many people here who
say that they know it.”

On Christmas Eve a serious misfortune befell Columbus.  What with looking
for gold, and trying to understand the people who talked about it, and
looking after his ships, and writing up his journal, he had had
practically no sleep for two days and a night; and at eleven o’clock on
the 24th of December, the night being fine and his ship sailing along the
coast with a light land breeze, he decided to lie down to get some sleep.
There were no difficulties in navigation to be feared, because the ship’s
boats had been rowed the day before a distance of about ten miles ahead
on the course which they were then steering and had seen that there was
open water all the way.  The wind fell calm; and the man at the helm,
having nothing to do, and feeling sleepy, called a ship’s boy to him,
gave him the helm, and went off himself to lie down.  This of course was
against all rules; but as the Admiral was in his cabin and there was no
one to tell them otherwise the watch on deck thought it a very good
opportunity to rest.  Suddenly the boy felt the rudder catch upon
something, saw the ship swinging, and immediately afterwards heard the
sound of tide ripples.  He cried out; and in a moment Columbus, who was
sleeping the light sleep of an anxious shipmaster, came tumbling up to
see what was the matter.  The current, which flows in that place at a
speed of about two knots, had carried the ship on to a sand bank, but she
touched so quietly that it was hardly felt.  Close on the heels of,
Columbus came the master of the ship and the delinquent watch; and the
Admiral immediately ordered them to launch the ship’s boat--and lay out
an anchor astern so that they could warp her off.  The wretches lowered
the boat, but instead of getting the anchor on board rowed off in the
direction of the Nina, which was lying a mile and a half to windward.
As soon as Columbus saw what they were doing he ran to the side and,
seeing that the tide was failing and that the ship had swung round across
the bank, ordered the remainder of the crew to cut away the mainmast and
throw the deck hamper overboard, in order to lighten the ship.  This took
some time; the tide was falling, and the ship beginning to heel over on
her beam; and by the time it was done the Admiral saw that it would be of
no use, for the ship’s seams had opened and she was filling.

At this point the miserable crew in the ship’s boat came back, the loyal
people on the Nina having refused to receive them and sent them back to
the assistance of the Admiral.  But it was now too late to do anything to
save the ship; and as he did not know but that she might break up,
Columbus decided to tranship the people to the Nina, who had by this time
sent her own boat.  The whole company boarded the Nina, on which the
Admiral beat about miserably till morning in the vicinity of his doomed
ship.  Then he sent Diego de Arana, the brother of Beatriz and a trusty
friend, ashore in a boat to beg the help of the King; and Guacanagari
immediately sent his people with large canoes to unload the wrecked ship,
which was done with great efficiency and despatch, and the whole of her
cargo and fittings stored on shore under a guard.  And so farewell to the
Santa Maria, whose bones were thenceforward to bleach upon the shores of
Hayti, or incongruously adorn the dwellings of the natives.  She may have
been “a bad sailer and unfit for discovery”; but no seaman looks without
emotion upon the wreck of a ship whose stem has cut the waters of home,
which has carried him safely over thousands of uncharted miles, and which
has for so long been his shelter and sanctuary.

At sunrise the kind-hearted cacique came down to the Nina, where Columbus
had taken up his quarters, and with tears in his eyes begged the Admiral
not to grieve at his losses, for that he, the cacique, would give him
everything that he possessed; that he had already given two large houses
to the Spaniards from the Santa Maria who had been obliged to encamp on
shore, and that he would provide more accommodation and help if
necessary.  In fact, the day which had been ushered in so disastrously
turned into a very happy one; and before it was over Columbus had decided
that, as he could not take the whole of his company home on the Nina, he
would establish a settlement on shore so that the men who were left
behind could collect gold and store it until more ships could be sent
from Spain.  The natives came buzzing round anxious to barter whatever
they had for hawks’ bells, which apparently were the most popular of the
toys that had been brought for bartering; “they shouted and showed the
pieces of gold, saying chuq, chuq, for hawks’ bells, as they are in a
likely state to become crazy for them.”  The cacique was delighted to see
that the Admiral was pleased with the gold that was brought to him, and
he cheered him up by telling him that there was any amount in Cibao,
which Columbus of course took for Cipango.  The cacique entertained
Columbus to a repast on shore, at which the monarch wore a shirt and a
pair of gloves that Columbus had given him; “and he rejoiced more over
the gloves than anything that had been given him.”  Columbus was pleased
with his clean and leisurely method of eating, and with his dainty
rubbing of his hands with herbs after he had eaten.  After the repast
Columbus gave a little demonstration of bow-and-arrow shooting and the
firing of lombards and muskets, all of which astonished and impressed the

The afternoon was spent in deciding on a site for the fortress which was
to be constructed; and Columbus had no difficulty in finding volunteers
among the crews to remain in the settlement.  He promised to leave with
them provisions of bread and wine for a year, a ship’s boat, seeds for
sowing crops, and a carpenter, a caulker, a gunner, and a cooper.  Before
the day was out he was already figuring up the profit that would arise
out of his misfortune of the day before; and he decided that it was the
act of God which had cast his ship away in order that this settlement
should be founded.  He hoped that the settlers would have a ton of gold
ready for him when he came back from Castile, so that, as he had said in
the glittering camp of Santa Fe, where perhaps no one paid very much heed
to him, there might be such a profit as would provide for the conquest of
Jerusalem and the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre.  After all, if he was
greedy for gold, he had a pious purpose for its employment.

The last days of the year were very busy ones for the members of the
expedition.  Assisted by the natives they were building the fort which,
in memory of the day on which it was founded, Columbus called La
Villa-de la Navidad.  The Admiral spent much time with King Guacanagari,
who “loved him so much that it was wonderful,” and wished to cover him
all over with gold before he went away, and begged him not to go before
it was done.  On December 27th there was some good news; a caravel had
been seen entering a harbour a little further along the coast; and as
this could only mean that the Pinta had returned, Columbus borrowed a
canoe from the king, and despatched a sailor in it to carry news of his
whereabouts to the Pinta.  While it was away Guacanagari collected all
the other kings and chiefs who were subject to him, and held a kind of
durbar.  They all wore their crowns; and Guacanagari took off his crown
and placed it on Columbus’s head; and the Admiral, not to be outdone,
took from his own neck “a collar of good bloodstones and very beautiful
beads of fine colours; which appeared very good in all parts, and placed
it upon the King; and he took off a cloak of fine scarlet cloth which he
had put on that day, and clothed the King with it; and he sent for some
coloured buskins which he made him put on, and placed upon his finger a
large silver ring”--all of which gives us a picturesque glimpse into the
contents of the Admiral’s wardrobe, and a very agreeable picture of King
Guacanagari, whom we must now figure as clothed, in addition to his
shirt and gloves, in a pair of coloured buskins, a collar of
bloodstones, a scarlet cloak and a silver ring.

But the time was running short; the Admiral, hampered as he was by the
possession of only one small ship, had now but one idea, which was to get
back to Castile as quickly as possible, report the result of his
discoveries, and come back again with a larger and more efficient
equipment.  Before he departed he had an affectionate leave-taking with
King Guacanagari; he gave him another shirt, and also provided a
demonstration of the effect of lombards by having one loaded, and firing
at the old Santa Maria where she lay hove down on the sandbank.  The shot
went clean through her hull and fell into the sea beyond, and produced
what might be called a very strong moral effect, although an unnecessary
one, on the natives.  He then set about the very delicate business of
organising the settlement.  In all, forty-two men were to remain behind,
with Diego de Arana in the responsible position of chief lieutenant,
assisted by Pedro Gutierrez and Rodrigo de Escovedo, the nephew of Friar
Juan Perez of La Rabida.  To these three he delegated all his powers and
authority as Admiral and Viceroy; and then, having collected the
colonists, gave them a solemn address.  First, he reminded them of the
goodness of God to them, and advised them to remain worthy of it by
obeying the Divine command in all their actions.  Second, he ordered
them, as a representative of the Sovereigns of Spain, to obey the captain
whom he had appointed for them as they would have obeyed himself.  Third,
he urged them to show respect and reverence towards King Guacanagari and
his chiefs, and to the inferior chiefs, and to avoid annoying them or
tormenting them, since they were to remain in a land that was as yet
under native dominion; to “strive and watch by their soft and honest
speech to gain their good-will and keep their friendship and love, so
that he should find them as friendly and favourable and more so when he
returned.”  Fourth, he commanded them “and begged them earnestly” to do
no injury and use no force against any natives; to take nothing from them
against their will; and especially to be on their guard to avoid injury
or violence to the women, “by which they would cause scandal and set a
bad example to the Indians and show the infamy of the Christians.”
Fifth, he charged them not to scatter themselves or leave the place where
they then were, but to remain together until he returned.  Sixth, he
“animated” them to suffer their solitude and exile cheerfully and
bravely, since they had willingly chosen it.  The seventh order was, that
they should get help from the King to send boat expeditions in search of
the gold mines; and lastly, he promised that he would petition the
Sovereigns to honour them with special favours and rewards.  To this very
manly, wise and humane address the people listened with some emotion,
assuring Columbus that they placed their hopes in him, “begging him
earnestly to remember them always, and that as quickly as he could he
should give them the great joy which they anticipated from his coming

All of which things being done, the ships [ship--there was only the Nina]
loaded and provisioned, and the Admiral’s final directions given, he
makes his farewells and weighs anchor at sunrise on Friday, January 4.,
1493.  Among the little crowd on the shore who watch the Nina growing
smaller in the distance are our old friends Allard and William, tired of
the crazy confinement of a ship and anxious for shore adventures.  They
are to have their fill of them, as it happens; adventures that are to
bring to the settlers a sudden cloud of blood and darkness, and for the
islanders a brief return to their ancient peace.  But death waits for
Allard and William in the sunshine and silence of Espanola.



Columbus did not stand out to sea on his homeward course immediately, but
still coasted along the shores of the island as though he were loth to
leave it, and as though he might still at some bend of a bay or beyond
some verdant headland come upon the mines and jewels that he longed for.
The mountain that he passed soon after starting he called Monte Christi,
which name it bears to this day; and he saw many other mountains and
capes and bays, to all of which he gave names.  And it was a fortunate
chance which led him thus to stand along the coast of the island; for on
January 6th the sailor who was at the masthead, looking into the clear
water for shoals and rocks, reported that he saw the caravel Pinta right
ahead.  When she came up with him, as they were in very shallow water not
suitable for anchorage, Columbus returned to the bay of Monte Christi to
anchor there.  Presently Martin Alonso Pinzon came on board to report
himself--a somewhat crestfallen Martin, we may be sure, for he had failed
to find the gold the hope of which had led him to break his honour as a
seaman.  But the Martin Alonsos of this world, however sorry their
position may be, will always find some kind of justification for it.  It
must have been a trying moment for Martin Alonso as his boat from the
Pinta drew near the Nina, and he saw the stalwart commanding figure of
the white-haired Admiral walking the poop.  He knew very well that
according to the law and custom of the sea Columbus would have been well
within his right in shooting him or hanging him on the spot; but Martin
puts on a bold face as, with a cold dread at his heart and (as likely as
not) an ingratiating smile upon his face he comes up over the side.
Perhaps, being in some ways a cleverer man than Christopher, he knew the
Admiral’s weak points; knew that he was kind-hearted, and would remember
those days of preparation at Palos when Martin Alonso had been his
principal stay and help.  Martin’s story was that he had been separated
from the Admiral against his will; that the crew insisted upon it, and
that in any case they had only meant to go and find some gold and bring
it back to the Admiral.  Columbus did not believe him for a moment, but
either his wisdom or his weakness prevented him from saying so.  He
reproached Martin Alonso for acting with pride and covetousness “that
night when he went away and left him”; and Columbus could not think “from
whence had come the haughty actions and dishonesty Martin had shown
towards him on that voyage.”  Martin had done a good trade and had got a
certain amount of gold; and no doubt he knew well in what direction to
turn the conversation when it was becoming unpleasant to himself.  He
told Columbus of an island to the south of Juana--[Cuba]--called
Yamaye,--[Jamaica]--where pieces of gold were taken from the mines as
large as kernels of wheat, and of another island towards the east which
was inhabited only by women.

The unpleasantness was passed over as soon as possible, although the
Admiral felt that the sooner he got home the better, since he was
practically at the mercy of the Pinzon brothers and their following from
Palos.  He therefore had the Pinta beached and recaulked and took in wood
and water, and continued his voyage on Tuesday, January 8th.  He says
that “this night in the name of our Lord he will start on his journey
without delaying himself further for any matter, since he had found what
he had sought, and he did not wish to have more trouble with that Martin
Alonso until their Highnesses learned the news of the voyage and what he
has done.”  After that it will be another matter, and his turn will come;
for then, he says, “I will not suffer the bad deeds of persons without
virtue, who, with little respect, presume to carry out their own wills in
opposition to those who did them honour.”  Indeed, for several days, the
name of “that Martin Alonso” takes the place of gold in Columbus’s
Journal.  There were all kinds of gossip about the ill deeds of Martin
Alonso, who had taken four Indian men and two young girls by force; the
Admiral releasing them immediately and sending them back to their homes.
Martin Alonso, moreover, had made a rule that half the gold that was
found was to be kept by himself; and he tried to get all the people of
his ship to swear that he had been trading for only six days, but “his
wickedness was so public that he could not hide it.”  It was a good thing
that Columbus had his journal to talk to, for he worked off a deal of
bitterness in it.  On Sunday, January 13th, when he had sent a boat
ashore to collect some “ajes” or potatoes, a party of natives with their
faces painted and with the plumes of parrots in their hair came and
attacked the party from the boat; but on getting a slash or two with a
cutlass they took to flight and escaped from the anger of the Spaniards.
Columbus thought that they were cannibals or caribs, and would like to
have taken some of them, but they did not come back, although afterwards
he collected four youths who came out to the caravel with cotton and

Columbus was very curious about the island of Matinino,--[Martinique]
--which was the one said to be inhabited only by women, and he wished very
much to go there; but the caravels were leaking badly, the crews were
complaining, and he was reluctantly compelled to shape his course for
Spain.  He sailed to the north-east, being anxious apparently to get into
the region of westerly winds which he correctly guessed would be found to
the north of the course he had sailed on his outward voyage.  By the 17th
of January he was in the vicinity of the Sargasso Sea again, which this
time had no terrors for him.  From his journal the word “gold” suddenly
disappears; the Viceroy and Governor-General steps off the stage; and in
his place appears the sea captain, watching the frigate birds and
pelicans, noting the golden gulf-weed in the sea, and smelling the
breezes that are once more as sweet as the breezes of Seville in May.  He
had a good deal of trouble with his dead-reckoning at this time, owing to
the changing winds and currents; but he made always from fifty to seventy
miles a day in a direction between north-by-east and north-north-east.
The Pinta was not sailing well, and he often had to wait for her to come
up with him; and he reflected in his journal that if Martin Alonso Pinzon
had taken as much pains to provide himself with a good mast in the Indies
as he had to separate himself from the Admiral, the Pinta would have
sailed better.

And so he went on for several days, with the wind veering always south
and south-west, and pointing pretty steadily to the north-east.  On
February 4th he changed his course, and went as near due east as he
could.  They now began to find themselves in considerable doubt as to
their position.  The Admiral said he was seventy-five leagues to the
south of Flores; Vincenti Pinzon and the pilots thought that they had
passed the Azores and were in the neighbourhood of Madeira.  In other
words, there was a difference of 600 miles between their estimates,
and the Admiral remarks that “the grace of God permitting, as soon as
land is seen, it will be known who has calculated the surest.”

A great quantity of birds that began to fly about the ship made him think
that they were near land, but they turned out to be the harbingers of a
storm.  On Tuesday, February 12th, the sea and wind began to rise, and it
continued to blow harder throughout that night and the next day.  The
wind being aft he went under bare poles most of the night, and when day
came hoisted a little sail; but the sea was terrible, and if he had not
been so sure of the staunch little Nina he would have felt himself in
danger of being lost.  The next day the sea, instead of going down,
increased in roughness; there was a heavy cross sea which kept breaking
right over the ship, and it became necessary to make a little sail in
order to run before the wind, and to prevent the vessel falling back into
the trough of the seas.  All through Thursday he ran thus under the half
hoisted staysail, and he could see the Pinta running also before the
wind, although since she presented more surface, and was able to carry a
little more sail than the Nina, she was soon lost to sight.  The Admiral
showed lights through the night, and this time there was no lack of
response from Martin Alonso; and for some part of that dark and stormy
night these two humanly freighted scraps of wood and cordage staggered
through the gale showing lights to each other; until at last the light
from the Pinta disappeared.  When morning came she was no longer to be
seen; and the wind and the sea had if anything increased.  The Nina was
now in the greatest danger.  Any one wave of the heavy cross sea, if it
had broken fairly across her, would have sunk her; and she went swinging
and staggering down into the great valleys and up into the hills, the
steersman’s heart in his mouth, and the whole crew in an extremity of
fear.  Columbus, who generally relied upon his seamanship, here invoked
external aid, and began to offer bargains to the Almighty.  He ordered
that lots should be cast, and that he upon whom the lot fell should make
a vow to go on pilgrimage to Santa Maria de Guadaloupe carrying a white
candle of five pounds weight.  Same dried peas were brought, one for
every member of the crew, and on one of them a cross was marked with a
knife; the peas were well shaken and were put into a cap.  The first to
draw was the Admiral; he drew the marked pea, and he made the vow.  Lots
were again drawn, this time for a greater pilgrimage to Santa Maria de
Loretto in Ancona; and the lot fell on a seaman named Pedro de Villa,
--the expenses of whose pilgrimage Columbus promised to pay.  Again lots
were drawn for a pilgrimage to the shrine of Santa Clara of Moguer, the
pilgrim to watch and pray for one night there; and again the lot fell on
Columbus.  In addition to these, every one, since they took themselves
for lost, made some special and private vow or bargain with God; and
finally they all made a vow together that at the first land they reached
they would go in procession in their shirts to pray at an altar of Our

The scene thus conjured up is one peculiar to the time and condition of
these people, and is eloquent and pathetic enough: the little ship
staggering and bounding along before the wind, and the frightened crew,
who had gone through so many other dangers, huddled together under the
forecastle, drawing peas out of a cap, crossing themselves, making vows
upon their knees, and seeking to hire the protection of the Virgin by
their offers of candles and pilgrimages.  Poor Christopher, standing in
his drenched oilskins and clinging to a piece of rigging, had his own
searching of heart and examining of conscience.  He was aware of the
feverish anxiety and impatience that he felt, now that he had been
successful in discovering a New World, to bring home the news and fruits
of it; his desire to prove true what he had promised was so great that,
in his own graphic phrase, “it seemed to him that every gnat could
disturb and impede it”; and he attributed this anxiety to his lack of
faith in God.  He comforted himself, like Robinson Crusoe in a similar
extremity, by considering on the other hand what favours God had shown
him, and by remembering that it was to the glory of God that the fruits
of his discovery were to be dedicated.  But in the meantime here he was
in a ship insufficiently ballasted (for she was now practically empty of
provisions, and they had found it necessary to fill the wine and water
casks with salt water in order to trim her) and flying before a tempest
such as he had never experienced in his life.  As a last resource, and in
order to give his wonderful news a chance of reaching Spain in case the
ship were lost, he went into his cabin and somehow or other managed to
write on a piece of parchment a brief account of his discoveries, begging
any one who might find it to carry it to the Spanish Sovereigns.  He tied
up the parchment in a waxed cloth, and put it into a large barrel without
any one seeing him, and then ordered the barrel to be thrown into the
sea, which the crew took to be some pious act of sacrifice or devotion.
Then he went back on deck and watched the last of the daylight going and
the green seas swelling and thundering about his little ship, and thought
anxiously of his two little boys at school in Cordova, and wondered what
would become of them if he were lost.  The next morning the wind had
changed a little, though it was still very high; but he was able to hoist
up the bonnet or topsail, and presently the sea began to go down a
little.  When the sun rose they saw land to the east-north-east.  Some of
them thought it was Madeira, others the rock of Cintra in Portugal; the
pilots said it was the coast of Spain, the Admiral thought it was the
Azores; but at any rate it was land of some kind.  The sun was shining
upon it and upon the tumbling sea; and although the waves were still
raging mast-high and the wind still blowing a hard gale, the miserable
crew were able to hope that, having lived through the night, they could
live through the day also.  They had to beat about to make the land,
which was now ahead of them, now on the beam, and now astern; and
although they had first sighted it at sunrise on Friday morning it was
early on Monday morning, February 18th, before Columbus was able to cast
anchor off the northern coast of an island which he discovered to be the
island of Santa Maria in the Azores.  On this day Columbus found time to
write a letter to Luis de Santangel, the royal Treasurer, giving a full
account of his voyage and discoveries; which letter he kept and
despatched on the 4th of March, after he had arrived in Lisbon.  Since it
contained a postscript written at the last moment we shall read it at
that stage of our narrative.  The inhabitants of Santa Maria received the
voyagers with astonishment, for they believed that nothing could have
lived through the tempest that had been raging for the last fortnight.
They were greatly excited by the story of the discoveries; and the
Admiral, who had now quite recovered command of himself, was able to
pride himself on the truth of his dead-reckoning, which had proved to be
so much more accurate than that of the pilots.

On the Tuesday evening three men hailed them from the shore, and when
they were brought off to the ship delivered a message from the Portuguese
Governor of the island, Juan de Castaneda, to the effect that he knew the
Admiral very well, and that he was delighted to hear of his wonderful
voyage.  The next morning Columbus, remembering the vow that had been
made in the storm, sent half the crew ashore in their shirts to a little
hermitage, which was on the other side of a point a short distance away,
and asked the Portuguese messenger to send a priest to say Mass for them.
While the members of the crew were at their prayers, however, they
received a rude surprise.  They were suddenly attacked by the islanders,
who had come up on horses under the command of the treacherous Governor,
and taken prisoners.  Columbus waited unsuspectingly for the boat to come
back with them, in order that he and the other half of the crew could go
and perform their vow.

When the boat did not come back he began to fear that some accident must
have happened to it, and getting his anchor up he set sail for the point
beyond which the hermitage was situated.  No sooner had he rounded the
point than he saw a band of horsemen, who dismounted, launched the boat
which was drawn up on the beach, and began to row out, evidently with the
intention of attacking the Admiral.  When they came up to the Nina the
man in command of them rose and asked Columbus to assure him of personal
safety; which assurance was wonderingly given; and the Admiral inquired
how it was that none of his own people were in the boat?  Columbus
suspected treachery and tried to meet it with treachery also,
endeavouring with smooth words to get the captain to come on board so
that he could seize him as a hostage.  But as the Portuguese would not
come on board Columbus told them that they were acting very unwisely in
affronting his people; that in the land of the Sovereigns of Castile the
Portuguese were treated with great honour and security; that he held
letters of recommendation from the Sovereigns addressed to every ruler in
the world, and added that he was their Admiral of the Ocean Seas and
Viceroy of the Indies, and could show the Portuguese his commission to
that effect; and finally, that if his people were not returned to him, he
would immediately make sail for Spain with the crew that was left to him
and report this insult to the Spanish Sovereigns.  To all of which the
Portuguese captain replied that he did not know any Sovereigns of
Castile; that neither they nor their letters were of any account in that
island; that they were not afraid of Columbus; and that they would have
him know that he had Portugal to deal with--edging away in the boat at
the same time to a convenient distance from the caravel.  When he thought
he was out of gunshot he shouted to Columbus, ordering him to take his
caravel back to the harbour by command of the Governor of the island.
Columbus answered by calling his crew to witness that he pledged his word
not to descend from or leave his caravel until he had taken a hundred
Portuguese to Castile, and had depopulated all their islands.  After
which explosion of words he returned to the harbour and anchored there,
“as the weather and wind were very unfavourable for anything else.”

He was, however, in a very bad anchorage, with a rocky bottom which
presently fouled his anchors; and on the Wednesday he had to make sail
towards the island of San Miguel if order to try and find a better

But the wind and sea getting up again very badly he was obliged to beat
about all night in a very unpleasant situation, with only three sailors
who could be relied upon, and a rabble of gaol-birds and longshoremen who
were of little use in a tempest but to draw lots and vow pilgrimages.
Finding himself unable to make the island of San Miguel he decided to go
back to Santa Maria and make an attempt to recover his boat and his crew
and the anchor and cables he had lost there.

In his Journal for this day, and amid all his anxieties, he found time to
note down one of his curious visionary cosmographical reflections.  This
return to a region of storms and heavy seas reminded him of the long
months he had spent in the balmy weather and calm waters of his
discovery; in which facts he found a confirmation of the theological idea
that the Eden, or Paradise, of earth was “at the end of the Orient,
because it is a most temperate place.  So that these lands which he had
now discovered are at the end of the Orient.”  Reflections such as these,
which abound in his writings, ought in themselves to be a sufficient
condemnation of those who have endeavoured to prove that Columbus was a
man of profound cosmographical learning and of a scientific mind.  A man
who would believe that he had discovered the Orient because in the place
where he had been he had found calm weather, and because the theologians
said that the Garden of Eden must be in the Orient since it is a
temperate place, would believe anything.

Late on Thursday night, when he anchored again in the harbour of San
Lorenzo at Santa Maria, a man hailed them from the rocks, and asked them
not to go away.  Presently a boat containing five sailors, two priests,
and a notary put off from the beach; and they asked for a guarantee of
security in order that they might treat with the Admiral.  They slept on
board that night, and in the morning asked him to show them his authority
from the Spanish Sovereigns, which the Admiral did, understanding that
they had asked for this formality in order to save their dignity.  He
showed them his general letter from the King and Queen of Spain,
addressed to “Princes and Lords of High Degree”; and being satisfied with
this they went ashore and released the Admiral’s people, from whom he
learned that what had been done had been done by command of the King of
Portugal, and that he had issued an order to the Governors of all the
Portuguese islands that if Columbus landed there on his way home he was
to be taken prisoner.

He sailed again on Sunday, February 24th, encountering heavy winds and
seas, which troubled him greatly with fears lest some disaster should
happen at the eleventh hour to interfere with his, triumph.  On Sunday,
March 3rd, the wind rose to the force of a hurricane, and, on a sudden
gust of violent wind splitting all the sails, the unhappy crew gathered
together again and drew more lots and made more vows.  This time the
pilgrimage was to be to the shrine of Santa Maria at Huelva, the pilgrim
to go as before in his shirt; and the lot fell to the Admiral.  The rest
of them made a vow to fast on the next Saturday on bread and water; but
as they all thought it extremely unlikely that by that time they would be
in need of any bodily sustenance the sacrifice could hardly have been a
great one.  They scudded along under bare poles and in a heavy cross sea
all that night; but at dawn on Monday they saw land ahead of them, which
Columbus recognised as the rock of Cintra at Lisbon; and at Lisbon sure
enough they landed some time during the morning.  As soon as they were
inside the river the people came flocking down with stories of the gale
and of all the wrecks that there had been on the coast.  Columbus hurried
away from the excited crowds to write a letter to the King of Portugal,
asking him for a safe conduct to Spain, and assuring him that he had come
from the Indies, and not from any of the forbidden regions of Guinea.

The next day brought a visit from no less a person than Bartholomew Diaz.
Columbus had probably met him before in 1486, when Diaz had been a
distinguished man and Columbus a man not distinguished; but now things
were changed.  Diaz ordered Columbus to come on board his small vessel in
order to go and report himself to the King’s officers; but Columbus
replied that he was the Admiral of the Sovereigns of Castile, “that he
did not render such account to such persons,” and that he declined to
leave his ship.  Diaz then ordered him to send the captain of the Nina;
but Columbus refused to send either the captain or any other person, and
otherwise gave himself airs as the Admiral of the Ocean Seas.  Diaz then
moderated his requests, and merely asked Columbus to show him his letter
of authority, which Columbus did; and then Diaz went away and brought
back with him the captain of the Portuguese royal yacht, who came in
great state on board the shabby little Nina, with kettle-drums and
trumpets and pipes, and placed himself at the disposal of Columbus.  It
is a curious moment, this, in which the two great discoverers of their
time, Diaz and Columbus, meet for an hour on the deck of a forty-ton
caravel; a curious thing to consider that they who had performed such
great feats of skill and bravery, one to discover the southernmost point
of the old world and the other to voyage across an uncharted ocean to the
discovery of an entirely new world, could find nothing better to talk
about than their respective ranks and glories; and found no more
interesting subject of discussion than the exact amount of state and
privilege which should be accorded to each.

During the day or two in which Columbus waited in the port crowds of
people came down from Lisbon to see the little Nina, which was an object
of much admiration and astonishment; to see the Indians also, at whom
they greatly marvelled.  It was probably at this time that the letter
addressed to Luis de Santangel, containing the first official account of
the voyage, was despatched.


     “Sir: As I am sure you will be pleased at the great victory which
     the Lord has given me in my voyage, I write this to inform you that
     in twenty’ days I arrived in the Indies with the squadron which
     their Majesties had placed under my command.  There I discovered
     many islands, inhabited by a numerous population, and took
     possession of them for their Highnesses, with public ceremony and
     the royal flag displayed, without molestation.

     “The first that I discovered I named San Salvador, in remembrance of
     that Almighty Power which had so miraculously bestowed them.  The
     Indians call it Guanahani.  To the second I assigned the name of
     Santa Marie de Conception; to the third that of Fernandina; to the
     fourth that of Isabella; to the fifth Juana; and so on, to every one
     a new name.

     “When I arrived at Juana, I followed the coast to the westward, and
     found it so extensive that I considered it must be a continent and a
     province of Cathay.  And as I found no towns or villages by the
     seaside, excepting some small settlements, with the people of which
     I could not communicate because they all ran away, I continued my
     course to the westward, thinking I should not fail to find some
     large town and cities.  After having coasted many leagues without
     finding any signs of them, and seeing that the coast took me to the
     northward, where I did not wish to go, as the winter was already set
     in, I considered it best to follow the coast to the south and the
     wind being also scant, I determined to lose no more time, and
     therefore returned to a certain port, from whence I sent two
     messengers into the country to ascertain whether there was any king
     there or any large city.

     “They travelled for three days, finding an infinite number of small
     settlements and an innumerable population, but nothing like a city:
     on which account--they returned.  I had tolerably well ascertained
     from some Indians whom I had taken that this land was only an
     island, so I followed the coast of it to the east 107 leagues, to
     its termination.  And about eighteen leagues from this cape, to the
     east, there was another island, to which I shortly gave the name of
     Espanola.  I went to it, and followed the north coast of it, as I
     had done that of Juana, for 178--[should be 188]--long leagues due

     “This island is very fertile, as well, indeed, as all the rest.  It
     possesses numerous harbours, far superior to any I know in Europe,
     and what is remarkable, plenty of large inlets.  The land is high,
     and contains many lofty ridges and some very high mountains, without
     comparison of the island of Centrefrey;--[Tenerife]--all of them
     very handsome and of different forms; all of them accessible and
     abounding in trees of a thousand kinds, high, and appearing as if
     they would reach the skies.  And I am assured that the latter never
     lose their fresh foliage, as far as I can understand, for I saw them
     as fresh and flourishing as those of Spain in the month of May.
     Some were in blossom, some bearing fruit, and others in other
     states, according to their nature.

     “The nightingale and a thousand kinds of birds enliven the woods
     with their song, in the month of November, wherever I went.  There
     are seven or eight kinds of palms, of various elegant forms, besides
     various other trees, fruits, and herbs.  The pines of this island
     are magnificent.  It has also extensive plains, honey, and a great
     variety of birds and fruits.  It has many metal mines, and a
     population innumerable.

     “Espanola is a wonderful island, with mountains, groves, plains, and
     the country generally beautiful and rich for planting and sowing,
     for rearing sheep and cattle of all kinds, and ready for towns and
     cities.  The harbours must be seen to be appreciated; rivers are
     plentiful and large and of excellent water; the greater part of them
     contain gold.  There is a great difference between the trees,
     fruits, and herbs of this island and those of Juana.  In this island
     there are many spices, and large mines of gold and other metals.

     “The people of this island and of all the others which I have
     discovered or heard of, both men and women, go naked as they were
     born, although some of the women wear leaves of herbs or a cotton
     covering made on purpose.  They have no iron or steel, nor any
     weapons; not that they are not a well-disposed people and of fine
     stature, but they are timid to a degree.  They have no other arms
     excepting spears made of cane, to which they fix at the end a sharp
     piece of wood, and then dare not use even these.  Frequently I had
     occasion to send two or three of my men onshore to some settlement
     for information, where there would be multitudes of them; and as
     soon as they saw our people they would run away every soul, the
     father leaving his child; and this was not because any one had done
     them harm, for rather at every cape where I had landed and been able
     to communicate with them I have made them presents of cloth and many
     other things without receiving anything in return; but because they
     are so timid.  Certainly, where they have confidence and forget
     their fears, they are so open-hearted and liberal with all they
     possess that it is scarcely to be believed without seeing it.  If
     anything that they have is asked of them they never deny it; on the
     contrary, they will offer it.  Their generosity is so great that
     they would give anything, whether it is costly or not, for anything
     of every kind that is offered them and be contented with it.  I was
     obliged to prevent such worth less things being given them as pieces
     of broken basins, broken glass, and bits of shoe-latchets, although
     when they obtained them they esteemed them as if they had been the
     greatest of treasures.  One of the seamen for a latchet received a
     piece of gold weighing two dollars and a half, and others, for other
     things of much less value, obtained more.  Again, for new silver
     coin they would give everything they possessed, whether it was worth
     two or three doubloons or one or two balls of cotton.  Even for
     pieces of broken pipe-tubes they would take them and give anything
     for them, until, when I thought it wrong, I prevented it.  And I
     made them presents of thousands of things which I had, that I might
     win their esteem, and also that they might be made good Christians
     and be disposed to the service of Your Majesties and the whole
     Spanish nation, and help us to obtain the things which we require
     and of which there is abundance in their country.

     “And these people appear to have neither religion nor idolatry,
     except that they believe that good and evil come from the skies; and
     they firmly believed that our ships and their crews, with myself,
     came from the skies, and with this persuasion,--after having lost
     their fears, they always received us.  And yet this does not proceed
     from ignorance, for they are very ingenious, and some of them
     navigate their seas in a wonderful manner and give good account of
     things, but because they never saw people dressed or ships like

     “And as soon as I arrived in the Indies, at the first island at
     which I touched, I captured some of them, that we might learn from
     them and obtain intelligence of what there was in those parts.  And
     as soon as we understood each other they were of great service to
     us; but yet, from frequent conversation which I had with them, they
     still believe we came from the skies.  These were the first to
     express that idea, and others ran from house to house, and to the
     neighbouring villages, crying out, “Come and see the people from the
     skies.”  And thus all of them, men and women, after satisfying
     themselves of their safety, came to us without reserve, great and
     small, bringing us something to eat and drink, and which they gave
     to us most affectionately.

     “They have many canoes in those islands propelled by oars, some of
     them large and others small, and many of them with eight or ten
     paddles of a side, not very wide, but all of one trunk, and a boat
     cannot keep way with them by oars, for they are incredibly fast; and
     with these they navigate all the islands, which are innumerable, and
     obtain their articles of traffic.  I have seen some of these canoes
     with sixty or eighty men in them, and each with a paddle.

     “Among the islands I did not find much diversity of formation in the
     people, nor in their customs, nor their language.  They all
     understand each other, which is remarkable; and I trust Your
     Highnesses will determine on their being converted to our faith, for
     which they are very well disposed.

     “I have already said that I went 107 leagues along the coast of
     Juana, from east to west.  Thus, according to my track, it is larger
     than England and Scotland together, for, besides these 107 leagues,
     there were further west two provinces to which I did not go, one of
     which is called Cibau, the people of which are born with tails;
     which provinces must be about fifty or sixty leagues long, according
     to what I can make out from the Indians I have with me, who know all
     the islands.  The other island (Espanola) is larger in circuit than
     the whole of Spain, from the Straits of Gibralter (the Columns) to
     Fuentarabia in Biscay, as I sailed 138 long leagues in a direct line
     from west to east.  Once known it must be desired, and once seen one
     desires never to leave it; and which, being taken possession of for
     their Highnesses, and the people being at present in a condition
     lower than I can possibly describe, the Sovereigns of Castile may
     dispose of it in any manner they please in the most convenient
     places.  In this Espanola, and in the best district, where are gold
     mines, and, on the other side, from thence to terra firma, as well
     as from thence to the Great Khan, where everything is on a splendid
     scale--I have taken possession of a large town, to which I gave the
     name of La Navidad, and have built a fort in it, in every respect
     complete.  And I have left sufficient people in it to take care of
     it, with artillery and provisions for more than a year; also a boat
     and coxswain with the equipments, in complete friendship with the
     King of the islands, to that degree that he delighted to call me and
     look on me as his brother.  And should they fall out with these
     people, neither he nor his subjects know anything of weapons, and go
     naked, as I have said, and they are the most timorous people in the
     world.  The few people left there are sufficient to conquer the
     country, and the island would thus remain without danger to them,
     they keeping order among themselves.

     “In all these islands it appeared to me the men are contented with
     one wife, but to their governor or king they allow twenty.  The
     women seem to work more than the men.  I have not been able to
     discover whether they respect personal property, for it appeared to
     me things were common to all, especially in the particular of
     provisions.  Hitherto I have not seen in any of these islands any
     monsters, as there were supposed to be; the people, on the contrary,
     are generally well formed, nor are they black like those of the
     Guinea, saving their hair, and they do not reside in places exposed
     to the sun’s rays.  It is true that the sun is most powerful there,
     and it is only twenty-six degrees from the equator.  In this last
     winter those islands which were mountainous were cold, but they were
     accustomed to it, with good food and plenty of spices and hot
     nutriment.  Thus I have found no monsters nor heard of any, except
     at an island which is the second in going to the Indies, and which
     is inhabited by a people who are considered in all the islands as
     ferocious, and who devour human flesh.  These people have many
     canoes, which scour all the islands of India, and plunder all they
     can.  They are not worse formed than the others, but they wear the
     hair long like women, and use bows and arrows of the same kind of
     cane, pointed with a piece of hard wood instead of iron, of which
     they have none.  They are fierce compared with the other people, who
     are in general but sad cowards; but I do not consider them in any
     other way superior to them.  These are they who trade in women, who
     inhabit the first island met with in going from Spain to the Indies,
     in which there are no men whatever.  They have no effeminate
     exercise, but bows and arrows, as before said, of cane, with which
     they arm themselves, and use shields of copper, of which they have

     “There is another island, I am told, larger than Espanola, the
     natives of which have no hair.  In this there is gold without limit,
     and of this and the others I have Indians with me to witness.

     “In conclusion, referring only to what has been effected by this
     voyage, which was made with so much haste, Your Highnesses may see
     that I shall find as much gold as desired with the very little
     assistance afforded to me; there is as much spice and cotton as can
     be wished for, and also gum, which hitherto has only been found in
     Greece, in the island of Chios, and they may sell it as they please,
     and the mastich, as much as may be desired, and slaves, also, who
     will be idolators.  And I believe that I have rhubarb, and cinnamon,
     and a thousand other things I shall find, which will be discovered
     by those whom I have left behind, for I did not stop at any cape
     when the wind enabled me to navigate, except at the town of Navidad,
     where I was very safe and well taken care of.  And in truth much
     more I should have done if the ships had served me as might have
     been expected.  This is certain, that the Eternal God our Lord gives
     all things to those who obey Him, and the victory when it seems
     impossible, and this, evidently, is an instance of it, for although
     people have talked of these lands, all was conjecture unless proved
     by seeing them, for the greater part listened and judged more by
     hearsay than by anything else.

     “Since, then, our Redeemer has given this victory to our illustrious
     King and Queen and celebrated their reigns by such a great thing,
     all Christendom should rejoice and make great festivals, and give
     solemn thanks to the Blessed Trinity, with solemn praises for the
     exaltation of so much people to our holy faith; and next for the
     temporal blessings which not only Spain but they will enjoy in
     becoming Christians, and which last may shortly be accomplished.

     “Written in the caravel off Santa Maria; on the eighteenth of
     February, ninety-three.”

The following postscript was added to the letter before it was

     “After writing the above, being in the Castilian Sea (off the coast
     of Castile), I experienced so severe a wind from south and
     south-east that I have been obliged to run to-day into this port of
     Lisbon, and only by a miracle got safely in, from whence I intended
     to write to Your Highnesses.  In all parts of the Indies I have
     found the weather like that of May, where I went in ninety-three
     days, and returned in seventy-eight, saving these thirteen days of
     bad weather that I have been detained beating about in this sea.
     Every seaman here says that never was so severe a winter, nor such
     loss of ships.”

On the Friday a messenger came from the King in the person of Don Martin
de Noronha, a relative of Columbus by marriage, and one who had perhaps
looked down upon him in the days when he attended the convent chapel at
Lisbon, but who was now the bearer of a royal invitation and in the
position of a mere envoy.  Columbus repaired to Paraiso where the King
was, and where he was received with great honour.

King John might well have been excused if he had felt some mortification
at this glorious and successful termination of a project which had been
offered to him and which he had rejected; but he evidently behaved with
dignity and a good grace, and did everything that he could to help
Columbus.  It was extremely unlikely that he had anything to do with the
insult offered to Columbus at the Azores, for though he was bitterly
disappointed that the glory of this discovery belonged to Spain and not
to Portugal, he was too much of a man to show it in this petty and
revengeful manner.  He offered to convey Columbus by land into Spain; but
the Admiral, with a fine dramatic sense, preferred to arrive by sea on
board of all that was left of the fleet with which he had sailed.  He
sailed for Seville on Wednesday, March 13th, but during the next day,
when he was off Cape Saint Vincent, he evidently changed his mind and
decided to make for Palos.  Sunrise on Friday saw him off the bar of
Saltes, with the white walls of La Rabida shining on the promontory among
the dark fir-trees.  During the hours in which he stood off and on
waiting for the tide he was able to recognise again all the old landmarks
and the scenes which had been so familiar to him in those busy days of
preparation nine months before; and at midday he sailed in with the flood
tide and dropped his anchor again in the mud of the river by Palos.

The caravel had been sighted some time before, probably when she was
standing off, the bar waiting for the tide; she was flying the Admiral’s
flag and there was no mistaking her identity; and we can imagine the news
spreading throughout the town of Palos, and reaching Huelva, and one by
one the bells beginning to ring, and the places of business to be closed,
and the people to come pouring out into the streets to be ready to greet
their friends.  Some more impatient than the others would sail out in
fishing-boats to get the first news; and I should be surprised to know
that a boat did not put off from the little pier beneath La Rabida, to
row round the point and out to where the Nina was lying--to beyond the
Manto Bank.  When the flood began to make over the bar and to cover the
long sandbank that stretches from the island of Saltes, the Nina came
gliding in, greeted by every joyful sound and signal that the inhabitants
of the two seaports could make.  Every one hurried down to Palos as the
caravel rounded the Convent Point.  Hernando, Marchena, and good old Juan
Perez were all there, we may be sure.  Such excitements, such triumphs as
the bronzed, white-bearded Admiral steps ashore at last, and is seized by
dozens of eager hands!  Such excitements as all the wives and inamoratas
of the Rodrigos and Juans and Franciscos rush to meet the swarthy
voyagers and cover them with embraces; such disappointments also, when it
is realised that some two score of the company are still on a sunbaked
island infinitely far over the western horizon.

Tears of joy and grief, shouts and feastings, firing of guns and flying
of flags, processions and receptions with these the deathless day is
filled; and the little Nina, her purpose staunchly fulfilled, swings
deserted on the turning tide, the ripples of her native Tinto making a
familiar music under her bowsprit.

And in the evening, with the last of the flood, another ship comes
gliding round the point and up the estuary.  The inhabitants of Palos
have all left the shore and are absorbed in the business of welcoming the
great man; and there is no one left to notice or welcome the Pinta.  For
it is she that, by a strange coincidence, and after many dangers and
distresses endured since she had parted company from the Nina in the
storm, now has made her native port on the very same day as the Nina.
Our old friend Martin Alonso Pinzon is on board, all the fight and
treachery gone out of him, and anxious only to get home unobserved.  For
(according to the story) he had made the port of Bayona on the north-west
coast of Spain, and had written a letter from there to the Sovereigns
announcing his arrival and the discoveries that he had made; and it is
said that he had received an unpleasant letter in return, reproaching him
for not waiting for his commander and forbidding him to come to Court.
This story is possible if his letter reached the Sovereigns after the
letter from the Admiral; for it is probable that Columbus may have
reported some of Martin’s doings to them.

Be that as it may, there are no flags and guns for him as he comes
creeping in up the river; his one anxiety is to avoid the Admiral and to
get home as quickly and quietly as he can.  For he is ill, poor Martin
Alonso; whether from a broken heart, as the early historians say, or from
pure chagrin and disappointment, or, as is more likely, from some illness
contracted on the voyage, it is impossible to say.  He has endured his
troubles and hardships like all the rest of them; no less skilfully than
Columbus has he won through that terrible tempest of February; and his
foolish and dishonest conduct has deprived him not only of the rewards
that he tried to steal, but of those which would otherwise have been his
by right.  He creeps quietly ashore and to his home, where at any rate we
may hope that there is some welcome for him; takes to his bed, turns his
face to the wall; and dies in a few days.  So farewell to Martin Alonso,
who has borne us company thus far.  He did not fail in the great matters
of pluck and endurance and nautical judgment, but only in the small
matters of honesty and decent manly conduct.  We will not weep for Martin
Alonso; we will make our farewells in silence, and leave his deathbed
undisturbed by any more accusations or reproaches.



From the moment when Columbus set foot on Spanish soil in the spring of
1493 he was surrounded by a fame and glory which, although they were
transient, were of a splendour such as few other men can have ever
experienced.  He had not merely discovered a country, he had discovered a
world.  He had not merely made a profitable expedition; he had brought
the promise of untold wealth to the kingdom of Spain.  He had not merely
made himself the master of savage tribes; he had conquered the
supernatural, and overcome for ever those powers of darkness that had
been thought to brood over the vast Atlantic.  He had sailed away in
obscurity, he had returned in fame; he had departed under a cloud of
scepticism and ridicule, he had come again in power and glory.  He had
sailed from Palos as a seeker after hidden wealth, hidden knowledge; he
returned as teacher, discoverer, benefactor.  The whole of Spain rang
with his fame, and the echoes of it spread to Portugal, France, England,
Germany, and Italy; and it reached the ears of his own family, who had
now left the Vico Dritto di Ponticello in Genoa and were living at

His life ashore in the first weeks following his return was a succession
of triumphs and ceremonials.  His first care on landing had been to go
with the whole of his crew to the church of Saint George, where a Te Deum
was sung in honour of his return; and afterwards to perform those vows
that he had made at sea in the hour of danger.  There was a certain
amount of business to transact at Palos in connection with the paying of
the ships’ crews, writing of reports to the Sovereigns, and so forth; and
it is likely that he stayed with his friends at the monastery of La
Rabida while this was being done.  The Court was at Barcelona; and it was
probably only a sense of his own great dignity and importance that
prevented Christopher from setting off on the long journey immediately.
But he who had made so many pilgrimages to Court as a suitor could revel
in a position that made it possible for him to hang back, and to be
pressed and invited; and so when his business at Palos was finished he
sent a messenger with his letters and reports to Barcelona, and himself,
with his crew and his Indians and all his trophies, departed for Seville,
where he arrived on Palm Sunday.

His entrance into that city was only a foretaste of the glory in which he
was to move across the whole of Spain.  He was met at the gates of the
city by a squadron of cavalry commanded by an envoy sent by Queen
Isabella; and a procession was formed of members of the crew carrying
parrots, alive and stuffed, fruits, vegetables, and various other
products of the New World.

In a prominent place came the Indians, or rather four of them, for one
had died on the day they entered Palos and three were too ill to leave
that town; but the ones that took part in the procession got all the more
attention and admiration.  The streets of Seville were crowded; crowded
also were the windows, balconies, and roofs.  The Admiral was entertained
at the house of the Count of Cifuentes, where his little museum of dead
and live curiosities was also accommodated, and where certain favoured
visitors were admitted to view it.  His two sons, Diego and Ferdinand,
were sent from Cordova to join him; and perhaps he found time to visit
Beatriz, although there is no record of his having been to Cordova or of
her having come to Seville.

Meanwhile his letters and messengers to the King and Queen had produced
their due effect.  The almost incredible had come to pass, and they saw
themselves the monarchs not merely of Spain, but of a new Empire that
might be as vast as Europe and Africa together.  On the 30th of March
they despatched a special messenger with a letter to Columbus, whose eyes
must have sparkled and heart expanded when he read the superscription:
“From the King and Queen to Don Christoval Colon, their Admiral of the
Ocean Seas and Viceroy and Governor of the Islands discovered in the
Indies.”  No lack of titles and dignities now!  Their Majesties express a
profound sense of his ability and distinction, of the greatness of his
services to them, to the Church, and to God Himself.  They hope that he
will lose no time, but repair to Barcelona immediately, so that they can
have the pleasure of hearing from his own lips an account of his
wonderful expedition, and of discussing with him the preparations that
must immediately be set on foot to fit out a new one.  On receiving this
letter Christopher immediately drew up a list of what he thought
necessary for the new expedition and, collecting all his retinue and his
museum of specimens, started by road for Barcelona.

Every one in Spain had by this time heard more or less exaggerated
accounts of the discoveries, and the excitement in the towns and villages
through which he passed was extreme.  Wherever he went he was greeted and
feasted like a king returning from victorious wars; the people lined the
streets of the towns and villages, and hung out banners, and gazed their
fill at the Indians and at the strange sun-burned faces of the crew.  At
Barcelona, where they arrived towards the end of April, the climax of
these glittering dignities was reached.  When the King and Queen heard
that Columbus was approaching the town they had their throne prepared
under a magnificent pavilion, and in the hot sunshine of that April day
they sat and waited the--coming of the great man.  A glittering troop of
cavalry had been sent out to meet him, and at the gates of the town a
procession was formed similar to that at Seville.  He had now six natives
with him, who occupied an important place in the procession; sailors
also, who carried baskets of fruit and vegetables from Espanola, with
stuffed birds and animals, and a monstrous lizard held aloft on a stick.
The Indians were duly decked out in all their paint and feathers; but if
they were a wonder and marvel to the people of Spain, what must Spain
have been to them with its great buildings and cities, its carriages and
horses, its glittering dresses and armours, its splendour and luxury!
We have no record of what the Indians thought, only of what the crowd
thought who gaped upon them and upon the gaudy parrots that screeched and
fluttered also in the procession.  Columbus came riding on horseback, as
befitted a great Admiral and Viceroy, surrounded by his pilots and
principal officers; and followed by men bearing golden belts, golden
masks, nuggets of gold and dust of gold, and preceded by heralds,
pursuivants, and mace-bearers.

What a return for the man who three years before had been pointed at and
laughed to scorn in this same brilliant society!  The crowds pressed so
closely that the procession could hardly get through the streets; the
whole population was there to witness it; and the windows and balconies
and roofs of the houses, as well as the streets themselves, were thronged
with a gaily dressed and wildly excited crowd.  At length the procession
reaches the presence of the King and Queen and, crowning and
unprecedented honour!  as the Admiral comes before them Ferdinand and
Isabella rise to greet him.  Under their own royal canopy a seat is
waiting for him; and when he has made his ceremonial greeting he is
invited to sit in their presence and give an account of his voyage.

He is fully equal to the situation; settles down to do himself and his
subject justice; begins, we may be sure, with a preamble about the
providence of God and its wisdom and consistency in preserving the
narrator and preparing his life for this great deed; putting in a deal of
scientific talk which had in truth nothing to do with the event, but was
always applied to it in Columbus’s writings from this date onwards; and
going on to describe the voyage, the sea of weeds, the landfall, his
intercourse with the natives, their aptitude for labour and Christianity,
and the hopes he has of their early conversion to the Catholic Church.
And then follows a long description of the wonderful climate, “like May
in Andalusia,” the noble rivers, and gorgeous scenery, the trees and
fruits and flowers and singing birds; the spices and the cotton; and
chief of all, the vast stores of gold and pearls of which the Admiral had
brought home specimens.  At various stages in his narrative he produces
illustrations; now a root of rhubarb or allspice; now a raw nugget of
gold; now a piece of gold laboured into a mask or belt; now a native
decorated with the barbaric ornaments that were the fashion in Espanola.
These things, says Columbus, are mere first-fruits of the harvest that is
to come; the things which he, like the dove that had flown across the sea
from the Ark and brought back an olive leaf in its mouth, has brought
back across the stormy seas to that Ark of civilisation from which he had
flown forth.

It was to Columbus an opportunity of stretching his visionary wings and
creating with pompous words and images a great halo round himself of
dignity and wonder and divine distinction,--an opportunity such as he
loved, and such as he never failed to make use of.

The Sovereigns were delighted and profoundly impressed.  Columbus wound
up his address with an eloquent peroration concerning the glory to
Christendom of these new discoveries; and there followed an impressive
silence, during which the Sovereigns sank on their knees and raised hands
and tearful eyes to heaven, an example in which they were followed by the
whole of the assembly; and an appropriate gesture enough, seeing what was
to come of it all.  The choir of the Chapel Royal sang a solemn Te Deum
on the spot; and the Sovereigns and nobles, bishops, archbishops,
grandees, hidalgos, chamberlains, treasurers, chancellors and other
courtiers, being exhausted by these emotions, retired to dinner.

During his stay at Barcelona Columbus was the guest of the
Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo, and moved thus in an atmosphere of
combined temporal and spiritual dignity such as his soul loved.  Very
agreeable indeed to him was the honour shown to him at this time.  Deep
down in his heart there was a secret nerve of pride and vanity which
throughout his life hitherto had been continually mortified and wounded;
but he was able now to indulge his appetite for outward pomp and honour
as much as he pleased.  When King Ferdinand went out to ride Columbus
would be seen riding on one side of him, the young Prince John riding on
the other side; and everywhere, when he moved among the respectful and
admiring throng, his grave face was seen to be wreathed in complacent
smiles.  His hair, which had turned white soon after he was thirty, gave
him a dignified and almost venerable appearance, although he was only in
his forty-third year; and combined with his handsome and commanding
presence to excite immense enthusiasm among the Spaniards.  They forgot
for the moment what they had formerly remembered and were to remember
again--that he was a foreigner, an Italian, a man of no family and of
poor origin. They saw in him the figure-head of a new empire and a new
glory, an emblem of power and riches, of the dominion which their proud
souls loved; and so there beamed upon him the brief fickle sunshine of
their smiles and favour, which he in his delusion regarded as an earnest
of their permanent honour and esteem.

It is almost always thus with a man not born to such dignities, and who
comes by them through his own efforts and labours.  No one would grudge
him the short-lived happiness of these summer weeks; but although he
believed himself to be as happy as a man can be, he appears to quietly
contemplating eyes less happy and fortunate than when he stood alone on
the deck of his ship, surrounded by an untrustworthy crew, prevailing by
his own unaided efforts over the difficulties and dangers with which he
was surrounded.  Court functions and processions, and the companionship
of kings and cardinals, are indeed no suitable reward for the kind of
work that he did.  Courtly dignities are suited to courtly services; but
they are no suitable crown for rough labour and hardship at sea, or for
the fulfilment of a man’s self by lights within him; no suitable crown
for any solitary labour whatsoever, which must always be its own and only

It is to this period of splendour that the story of the egg, which is to
some people the only familiar incident in Columbian biography, is
attributed.  The story is that at a banquet given by the Cardinal-Arch
bishop the conversation ran, as it always did in those days when he was
present, on the subject of the Admiral’s discoveries; and that one of the
guests remarked that it was all very well for Columbus to have done what
he did, but that in a country like Spain, where there were so many men
learned in science and cosmography, and many able mariners besides, some
one else would certainly have been found who would have done the same
thing.  Whereupon Columbus, calling for an egg, laid a wager that none of
the company but him self could make it stand on its end without support.
The egg was brought and passed round, and every one tried to make it
stand on end, but without success.  When it came to Columbus he cracked
the shell at one end, making a flat surface on which the egg stood
upright; thus demonstrating that a thing might be wonderful, not because
it was difficult or impossible, but merely because no one had ever
thought of doing it before.  A sufficiently inane story, and by no means
certainly true; but there is enough character in this little feat,
ponderous, deliberate, pompous, ostentatious, and at bottom a trick and
deceitful quibble, to make it accord with the grandiloquent public manner
of Columbus, and to make it easily believable of one who chose to show
himself in his speech and writings so much more meanly and pretentiously
than he showed himself in the true acts and business of his life.

But pomp and parade were not the only occupation of these Barcelona days.
There were long consultations with Ferdinand and Isabella about the
colonisation of the new lands; there were intrigues, and parrying of
intrigues, between the Spanish and Portuguese Courts on the subject of
the discoveries and of the representative rights of the two nations to be
the religious saviours of the New World.  The Pope, to whose hands the
heathen were entrusted by God to be handed for an inheritance to the
highest and most religious bidder, had at that time innocently divided
them into two portions, to wit: heathen to the south of Spain and
Portugal, and heathen to the west of those places.  By the Bull of 1438,
granted by Pope Martin V., the heathen to the west had been given to the
Spanish, and the heathen to the south to the Portuguese, and the two
crowns had in 1479 come to a working agreement.  Now, however, the
existence of more heathen to the west of the Azores introduced a new
complication, and Ferdinand sent a message to Pope Alexander VI. praying
for a confirmation of the Spanish title to the new discoveries.

This Pope, who was a native of Aragon and had been a subject of
Ferdinand, was a stolid, perverse, and stubborn being; so much is
advertised in his low forehead, impudent prominent nose, thick sensual
lips, and stout bull neck.  This Pope considers the matter; considers,
by such lights as he has, to whom he shall entrust the souls of these new
heathen; considers which country, Spain or Portugal, is most likely to
hold and use the same for the increase of the Christian faith in general,
the furtherance of the Holy Catholic Church in special, and the
aggrandisement of Popes in particular; and shrewdly decides that the
country in which the.  Inquisition can flourish is the country to whom
the heathen souls should be entrusted.  He therefore issues a Bull, dated
May 3, 1493, granting to the Spanish the possession of all lands, not
occupied by Christian powers, that lie west of a meridian drawn one
hundred leagues to the westward of the Azores, and to the Portuguese
possession of all similar lands lying to the eastward of that line.  He
sleeps upon this Bull, and has inspiration; and on the morrow, May 4th,
issues another Bull, drawing a line from the arctic to the antarctic
pole, and granting to Spain all heathen inheritance to the westward of
the same.  The Pope, having signed this Bull, considers it
further-assisted, no doubt, by the Portuguese Ambassador at the Vatican,
to whom it has been shown; realises that in the wording of the Bull an
injustice has been done to Portugal, since Spain is allowed to fix very
much at her own convenience the point at which the line drawn from pole
to pole shall cut the equator; and also because, although Spain is given
all the lands in existence within her territory, Portugal is only given
the lands which she may actually have occupied.  Even the legal mind of
the Pope, although much drowsed and blunted by brutish excesses,
discerns faultiness in this document; and consequently on the same day
issues a third Bull, in which the injustice to Portugal is redressed.
Nothing so easy, thinks the Pope, as to issue Bulls; if you make a
mistake in one Bull, issue another; and, having issued three Bulls in
twenty-four hours, he desists for the present, having divided the
earthly globe.

Thus easy it is for a Pope to draw lines from pole to pole, and across
the deep of the sea.  Yet the poles sleep still in their icy virginal
sanctity, and the blue waves through which that papal line passes shift
and shimmer and roll in their free salt loneliness, unaffected by his
demarcation; the heathen also, it appears, since that distant day, have
had something to say to their disposition.  If he had slept upon it
another night, poor Pope, it might have occurred to him that west and
east might meet on a meridian situated elsewhere on the globe than one
hundred miles west of the Azores; and that the Portuguese, who for the
moment had nothing heathen except Africa left to them, might according to
his demarcation strike a still richer vein of heathendom than that
granted to Spain.  But the holy Pontiff, bull neck, low forehead,
impudent prominent nose, and sensual lips notwithstanding, is exhausted
by his cosmographical efforts, and he lets it rest at that.  Later, when
Spain discovers that her privileges have been abated, he will have to
issue another Bull; but not to-day.  Sufficient unto the day are the
Bulls thereof.  For the moment King proposes and Pope disposes; but the
matter lies ultimately in the hands of the two eternal protagonists, man
and God.

In the meantime here are six heathen alive and well, or at any rate well
enough to support, willy-nilly, the rite of holy baptism.  They must have
been sufficiently dazed and bewildered by all that had happened to them
since they were taken on board the Admiral’s ship, and God alone knows
what they thought of it all, or whether they thought anything more than
the parrots that screamed and fluttered and winked circular eyes in the
procession with them.  Doubtless they were willing enough; and indeed,
after all they had come through, a little cold water could not do them
any harm.  So baptized they were in Barcelona; pompously baptized with
infinite state and ceremony, the King and Queen and Prince Juan
officiating as sponsors.  Queen Isabella, after the manner of queens,
took a kindly feminine interest in these heathen, and in their brethren
across the sea.  She had seen a good deal of conquest, and knew her
Spaniard pretty intimately; and doubtless her maternal heart had some
misgivings about the ultimate happiness of the gentle, handsome creatures
who lived in the sunshine in that distant place.  She made their souls
her especial care, and honestly believed that by providing for their
spiritual conversion she was doing them the greatest service in her
power.  She provided from her own private chapel vestments and altar
furniture for the mission church in Espanola; she had the six exiles in
Barcelona instructed under her eye; and she gave Columbus special orders
to inflict severe punishments on any one who should offer the natives
violence or injustice of any kind.  It must be remembered to her credit
that in after days, when slavery and an intolerable bloody and brutish
oppression had turned the paradise of Espanola into a shambles, she
fought almost singlehanded, and with an ethical sense far in advance of
her day, against the system of slavery practised by Spain upon the
inhabitants of the New World.

The dignities that had been provisionally granted to Columbus before his
departure on the first voyage were now elaborately confirmed; and in
addition he was given another title--that of Captain-General of the large
fleet which was to be fitted out to sail to the new colonies.  He was
entrusted with the royal seal, which gave him the right to grant letters
patent, to issue commissions, and to Appoint deputies in the royal name.
A coat-of-arms was also granted to him in which, in its original form,
the lion and castle of Leon and Castile were quartered with islands of
the sea or on a field azure, and five anchors or on a field azure.  This
was changed from time to time, chiefly by Columbus himself, who
afterwards added a continent to the islands, and modified the blazonry of
the lion and castle to agree with those on the royal arms--a piece of
ignorance and childish arrogance which was quite characteristic of him.

     [A motto has since been associated with the coat-of-arms, although
     it is not certain that Columbus adopted it in his lifetime.  In one
     form it reads:
                      “Por Castilla e por Leon
                       Nueva Mundo hallo Colon.”]

           (For Castile and Leon Columbus found a New World.)

And in the other:

                       “A Castilla y a Leon
                        Nuevo Mundo dio Colon.”

            (To Castile and Leon Columbus gave a New World.)

Equally characteristic and less excusable was his acceptance of the
pension of ten thousand maravedis which had been offered to the member of
the expedition who should first sight land.  Columbus was granted a very
large gratuity on his arrival in Barcelona, and even taking the product
of the islands at a tenth part of their value as estimated by him, he
still had every right to suppose himself one of the richest men in Spain.
Yet he accepted this paltry pension of L8. 6s. 8d.  in our modern
money (of 1900), which, taking the increase in the purchasing power of
money at an extreme estimate, would not be more than the equivalent of
$4000 now.  Now Columbus had not been the first person to see land; he
saw the light, but it was Rodrigo de Triana, the look-out man on the
Pinta, who first saw the actual land.  Columbus in his narrative to the
King and Queen would be sure to make much of the seeing of the light, and
not so much of the actual sighting of land; and he was on the spot, and
the reward was granted to him.  Even if we assume that in strict equity
Columbus was entitled to it, it was at least a matter capable of
argument, if only Rodrigo de Triana had been there to argue it; and what
are we to think of the Admiral of the Ocean Seas and Viceroy of the
Indies who thus takes what can only be called a mean advantage of a poor
seaman in his employ?  It would have been a competence and a snug little
fortune to Rodrigo de Triana; it was a mere flea-bite to a man who was
thinking in eighth parts of continents.  It may be true, as Oviedo
alleges, that Columbus transferred it to Beatriz Enriquez; but he had no
right to provide for her out of money that in all equity and decency
ought to have gone to another and a poorer man.  His biographers, some of
whom have vied with his canonisers in insisting upon seeing virtue in his
every action, have gone to all kinds of ridiculous extremes in accounting
for this piece of meanness.  Irving says that it was “a subject in which
his whole ambition was involved”; but a plain person will regard it as an
instance of greed and love of money.  We must not shirk facts like this
if we wish to know the man as he really was.  That he was capable of
kindness and generosity, and that he was in the main kind-hearted, we
have fortunately no reason to doubt; and if I dwell on some of his less
amiable characteristics it is with no desire to magnify them out of their
due proportion.  They are part of that side of him that lay in shadow, as
some side of each one of us lies; for not all by light nor all by shade,
but by light and shade combined, is the image of a man made visible to

It is quite of a piece with the character of Columbus that while he was
writing a receipt for the look-out man’s money and thinking what a pretty
gift it would make for Beatriz Enriquez he was planning a splendid and
spectacular thank-offering for all the dignities to which he had been
raised; and, brooding upon the vast wealth that was now to be his, that
he should register a vow to furnish within seven years an expedition of
four thousand horse and fifty thousand foot for the rescue of the Holy
Sepulchre, and a similar force within five years after the first if it
should be necessary.  It was probable that the vow was a provisional one,
and that its performance was to be contingent on his actual receipt and
possession of the expected money; for as we know, there was no money and
no expedition.  The vow was in effect a kind of religious flourish much
beloved by Columbus, undertaken seriously and piously enough, but
belonging rather to his public than to his private side.  A much more
simple and truly pious act of his was, not the promising of visionary but
the sending of actual money to his old father in Savona, which he did
immediately after his arrival in Spain.  The letter which he wrote with
that kindly remittance, not being couched in the pompous terms which he
thought suitable for princes, and doubtless giving a brief homely account
of what he had done, would, if we could come by it, be a document beyond
all price; but like every other record of his family life it has utterly

He wrote also from Barcelona to his two brothers, Bartholomew and
Giacomo, or James, since we may as well give him the English equivalent
of his name.  Bartholomew was in France, whither he had gone some time
after his return from his memorable voyage with Bartholomew Diaz; he was
employed as a map-maker at the court of Anne de Beaujeu, who was reigning
in the temporary absence of her brother Charles VIII.  Columbus’s letter
reached him, but much too late for him to be able to join in the second
expedition; in fact he did not reach Seville until five months after it
had sailed.  James, however, who was now twenty-five years old, was still
at Savona; he, like Columbus, had been apprenticed to his father, but had
apparently remained at home earning his living either as a wool-weaver or
merchant.  He was a quiet, discreet young fellow, who never pushed
himself forward very much, wore very plain clothes, and was apparently
much overawed by the grandeur and dignity of his elder brother.  He was,
however, given a responsible post in the new expedition, and soon had his
fill of adventure.

The business of preparing for the new expedition was now put in hand, and
Columbus, having taken leave of Ferdinand and Isabella, went to Seville
to superintend the preparations.  All the ports in Andalusia were ordered
to supply such vessels as might be required at a reasonable cost, and the
old order empowering the Admiral to press mariners into the service was
renewed.  But this time it was unnecessary; the difficulty now was rather
to keep down the number of applicants for berths in the expedition, and
to select from among the crowd of adventurers who offered themselves
those most suitable for the purposes of the new colony.  In this work
Columbus was assisted by a commissioner whom the Sovereigns had appointed
to superintend the fitting out of the expedition.  This man was a cleric,
Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, Archdeacon of Seville, a person of excellent
family and doubtless of high piety, and of a surpassing shrewdness for
this work.  He was of a type very commonly produced in Spain at this
period; a very able organiser, crafty and competent, but not altogether
trustworthy on a point of honour.  Like so many ecclesiastics of this
stamp, he lived for as much power and influence as he could achieve; and
though he was afterwards bishop of three sees successively, and became
Patriarch of the Indies, he never let go his hold on temporal affairs.
He began by being jealous of Columbus, and by objecting to the personal
retinue demanded by the Admiral; and in this, if I know anything of the
Admiral, he was probably justified.  The matter was referred to the
Sovereigns, who ordered Fonseca to carry out the Admiral’s wishes; and
the two were immediately at loggerheads.  When the Council for the Indies
was afterwards formed Fonseca became head, of it, and had much power to
make things pleasant or otherwise for Columbus.

It became necessary now to raise a considerable sum of money for the new
expedition.  Two-thirds of the ecclesiastical tithes were appropriated,
and a large proportion of the confiscated property of the Jews who had
been banished from Spain the year before; but this was not enough; and
five million maravedis were borrowed from the Duke of Medina Sidonia in
order to complete the financial supplies necessary for this very costly
expedition.  There was a treasurer, Francisco Pinelo, and an accountant,
Juan de Soria, who had charge of all the financial arrangements; but the
whole of the preparations were conducted on a ruinously expensive scale,
owing to the haste which the diplomatic relations with Portugal made
necessary.  The provisioning was done by a Florentine merchant named
Juonato Beradi, who had an assistant named Amerigo Vespucci--who, by a
strange accident, was afterwards to give his name to the continent of the
New World.

While these preparations were going on the game of diplomacy was being
played between the Courts of Spain and Portugal.  King John of Portugal
had the misfortune to be badly advised; and he was persuaded that,
although he had lost the right to the New World through his rejection of
Columbus’s services when they were first offered to him, he might still
discover it for himself, relying for protection on the vague wording of
the papal Bulls.  He immediately began to prepare a fleet, nominally to
go to the coast of Africa, but really to visit the newly discovered lands
in the west.  Hearing of these preparations, King Ferdinand sent an
Ambassador to the Portuguese Court; and King John agreed also to appoint
an Ambassador to discuss the whole matter of the line of demarcation, and
in the meantime not to allow any of his ships to sail to the west for a
period of sixty days after his Ambassador had reached Barcelona.  There
followed a good deal of diplomatic sharp practice; the Portuguese bribing
the Spanish officials to give them information as to what was going on,
and the Spaniards furnishing their envoys with double sets of letters and
documents so that they could be prepared to counter any movement on the
part of King John.  The idea of the Portuguese was that the line of
demarcation should be a parallel rather than a meridian; and that
everything north of the Canaries should belong to Spain and everything
south to Portugal; but this would never do from the Spanish point of
view.  The fact that a proposal had come from Portugal, however, gave
Ferdinand an opportunity of delaying the diplomatic proceedings until his
own expedition was actually ready to set sail; and he wrote to Columbus
repeatedly, urging him to make all possible haste with his preparations.
In the meantime he despatched a solemn embassy to Portugal, the purport
of which, much beclouded and delayed by preliminary and impossible
proposals, was to submit the whole question to the Pope for arbitration.
And all the time he was busy petitioning the Pope to restore to Spain
those concessions granted in the second Bull, but taken away again in the

This, being much egged on to it, the Pope ultimately did; waking up on
September 26th, the day after Columbus’s departure, and issuing another
Bull in which the Spanish Sovereigns were given all lands and islands,
discovered or not discovered, which might be found by sailing west and
south.  Four Bulls; and after puzzling over them for a year, the Kings of
Spain and Portugal decided to make their own Bull, and abide by it,
which, having appointed commissioners, they did on June 7, 1494., when by
the Treaty of Tordecillas the line of demarcation was finally fixed to
pass from north to south through a point 370 leagues west of the Cape
Verde Islands.



July, August, and September in the year 1493 were busy months for
Columbus, who had to superintend the buying or building and fitting of
ships, the choice and collection of stores, and the selection of his
company.  There were fourteen caravels, some of them of low tonnage and
light draught, and suitable for the navigation of rivers; and three large
carracks, or ships of three to four hundred tons.  The number of
volunteers asked for was a thousand, but at least two thousand applied
for permission to go with the expedition, and ultimately some fourteen or
fifteen hundred did actually go, one hundred stowaways being included in
the number.  Unfortunately these adventurers were of a class compared
with whom even the cut-throats and gaol-birds of the humble little
expedition that had sailed the year before from Palos were useful and
efficient.  The universal impression about the new lands in the West was
that they were places where fortunes could be picked up like dirt, and
where the very shores were strewn with gold and precious stones; and
every idle scamp in Spain who had a taste for adventure and a desire to
get a great deal of money without working for it was anxious to visit the
new territory.  The result was that instead of artisans, farmers,
craftsmen, and colonists, Columbus took with him a company at least half
of which consisted of exceedingly well-bred young gentlemen who had no
intention of doing any work, but who looked forward to a free and lawless
holiday and an early return crowned with wealth and fortune.  Although
the expedition was primarily for the establishment of a colony, no
Spanish women accompanied it; and this was but one of a succession of
mistakes and stupidities.

The Admiral, however, was not to be so lonely a person as he had been on
his first voyage; friends of his own choice and of a rank that made
intimacy possible even with the Captain-General were to accompany him.
There was James his brother; there was Friar Bernardo Buil, a Benedictine
monk chosen by the Pope to be his apostolic vicar in the New World; there
was Alonso de Ojeda, a handsome young aristocrat, cousin to the
Inquisitor of Spain, who was distinguished for his dash and strength and
pluck; an ideal adventurer, the idol of his fellows, and one of whose
daring any number of credible and incredible tales were told.  There was
Pedro Margarite, a well-born Aragonese, who was destined afterwards to
cause much trouble; there was Juan Ponce de Leon, the discoverer of
Florida; there was Juan de La Cosa, Columbus’s faithful pilot on the
Santa Maria on his first voyage; there was Pedro de Las Casas, whose son,
at this time a student in Seville, was afterwards to become the historian
of the New World and the champion of decency and humanity there.  There
was also Doctor Chanca, a Court physician who accompanied the expedition
not only in his professional capacity but also because his knowledge of
botany would enable him to make, a valuable report on the vegetables and
fruits of the New World; there was Antonio de Marchena, one of Columbus’s
oldest friends, who went as astronomer to the expedition.  And there was
one Coma, who would have remained unknown to this day but that he wrote
an exceedingly elegant letter to his friend Nicolo Syllacio in Italy,
describing in flowery language the events of the second voyage; which
letter, and one written by Doctor Chanca, are the only records of the
outward voyage that exist.  The journal kept by Columbus on this voyage
has been lost, and no copy of it remains.

Columbus settled at Cadiz during the time in which he was engaged upon
the fitting out of the expedition.  It was no light matter to superintend
the appointment of the crews and passengers, every one of whom was
probably interviewed by Columbus himself, and at the same time to keep
level with Archdeacon Fonseca.  This official, it will be remembered,
had a disagreement with Columbus as to the number of personal attendants
he was to be allowed; and on the matter being referred to the King and
Queen they granted Columbus the ridiculous establishment of ten footmen
and twenty other servants.

Naturally Fonseca held up his hands and wondered where it would all end.
It was no easy matter, moreover, on receipt of letters from the Queen
about small matters which occurred to her from time to time, to answer
them fully and satisfactorily, and at the same time to make out all the
lists of things that would likely be required both for provisioning the
voyage and establishing a colony.  The provisions carried in those days
were not very different from the provisions carried on deep-sea vessels
at the present time--except that canned meat, for which, with its horrors
and conveniences, the world may hold Columbus responsible, had not then
been invented.  Unmilled wheat, salted flour, and hard biscuit formed the
bulk of the provisions; salted pork was the staple--of the meat supply,
with an alternative of salted fish; while cheese, peas, lentils and
beans, oil and vinegar, were also carried, and honey and almonds and
raisins for the cabin table.  Besides water a large provision of rough
wine in casks was taken, and the dietary scale would probably compare
favourably with that of the British and American mercantile service sixty
years ago.  In addition a great quantity of seeds of all kinds were taken
for planting in Espanola; sugar cane, rice, and vines also, and an
equipment of agricultural implements, as well as a selection of horses
and other domestic animals for breeding purposes.  Twenty mounted
soldiers were also carried, and the thousand and one impedimenta of
naval, military, and domestic existence.

In the middle of all these preparations news came that a Portuguese
caravel had set sail from Madeira in the direction of the new lands.
Columbus immediately reported this to the King and Queen, and suggested
detaching part of his fleet to pursue her; but instead King John was
communicated with, and he declared that if the vessel had sailed as
alleged it was without his knowledge and permission, and that he would
send three ships after her to recall her--an answer which had to be
accepted, although it opened up rather alarming possibilities of four
Portuguese vessels reaching the new islands instead of one.  Whether
these ships ever really sailed or not, or whether the rumour was merely a
rumour and an alarm, is not certain; but Columbus was ordered to push on
his preparations with the greatest possible speed, to avoid Portuguese
waters, but to capture any vessels which he might find in the part of the
ocean allotted to Spain, and to inflict summary punishment on the crews.
As it turned out he never saw any Portuguese vessels, and before he had
returned to Spain again the two nations had come to an amicable agreement
quite independently of the Pope and his Bulls.  Spain undertook to make
no discoveries to the east of the line of demarcation, and Portugal none
to the west of it; and so the matter remained until the inhabitants of
the discovered lands began to have a voice in their own affairs.

With all his occupations Columbus found time for some amenities, and he
had his two sons, Diego and Ferdinand, staying with him at Cadiz.  Great
days they must have been for these two boys; days filled with excitement
and commotion, with the smell of tar and the loading of the innumerable
and fascinating materials of life; and many a journey they must have made
on the calm waters of Cadiz harbour from ship to ship, dreaming of the
distant seas that these high, quaintly carven prows would soon be
treading, and the wonderful bays and harbours far away across the world
into the waters of which their anchors were to plunge.

September 24th, the day before the fleet sailed, was observed as a
festival; and in full ceremonial the blessing of God upon the enterprise
was invoked.  The ships were hung with flags and with dyed silks and
tapestries; every vessel flew the royal standard; and the waters of the
harbour resounded with the music of trumpets and harps and pipes and the
thunder of artillery.  Some Venetian galleys happened to enter the
harbour as the fleet was preparing to weigh, and they joined in the
salutes and demonstrations which signalled the departure.  The Admiral
hoisted his flag on the ‘Marigalante’, one of the largest of the ships;
and somewhere among the smaller caravels the little Nina, re-caulked and
re-fitted, was also preparing to brave again the dangers over which she
had so staunchly prevailed.  At sunrise on the 25th the fleet weighed
anchor, with all the circumstance and bustle and apparent confusion that
accompanies the business of sailing-ships getting under weigh.  Up to the
last minute Columbus had his two sons on board with him, and it was not
until the ripples were beginning to talk under the bow of the Marigalante
that he said good-bye to them and saw them rowed ashore.  In bright
weather, with a favourable breeze, in glory and dignity, and with high
hopes in his heart, the Admiral set out once more on the long sea-road.



The second voyage of Columbus, profoundly interesting as it must have
been to him and to the numerous company to whom these waters were a
strange and new region, has not the romantic interest for us that his
first voyage had.  To the faith that guided him on his first venture
knowledge and certainty had now been added; he was going by a familiar
road; for to the mariner a road that he has once followed is a road that
he knows.  As a matter of fact, however, this second voyage was a far
greater test of Columbus’s skill as a navigator than the first voyage had
been.  If his navigation had been more haphazard he might never have
found again the islands of his first discovery; and the fact that he made
a landfall exactly where he wished to make it shows a high degree of
exactness in his method of ascertaining latitude, and is another instance
of his skill in estimating his dead-reckoning.  If he had been equipped
with a modern quadrant and Greenwich chronometers he could not have made
a quicker voyage nor a more exact landfall.

It will be remembered that he had been obliged to hurry away from
Espanola without visiting the islands of the Caribs as he had wished to
do.  He knew that these islands lay to the south-east of Espanola, and on
his second voyage he therefore took a course rather more southerly in
order, to make them instead of Guanahani or Espanola.  From the day they
left Spain his ships had pleasant light airs from the east and north-east
which wafted them steadily but slowly on their course.  In a week they
had reached the Grand Canary, where they paused to make some repairs to
one of the ships which, was leaking.  Two days later they anchored at
Gomera, and loaded up with such supplies as could be procured there
better than in Spain.  Pigs, goats, sheep and cows were taken on board;
domestic fowls also, and a variety of orchard plants and fruit seeds, as
well as a provision of oranges, lemons, and melons.  They sailed from
Gomera on the 7th of October, but the winds were so light that it was a
week later before they had passed Ferro and were once more in the open

On setting his course from Ferro Columbus issued sealed instructions to
the captain of each ship which, in the event of the fleet becoming
scattered, would guide them to the harbour of La Navidad in Espanola;
but the captains had strict orders not to open these instructions unless
their ships became separated from the fleet, as Columbus still wished to
hold for himself the secret of this mysterious road to the west.  There
were no disasters, however, and no separations.  The trade wind blew soft
and steady, wafting them south and west; and because of the more
southerly course steered on this voyage they did not even encounter the
weed of the Sargasso Sea, which they left many leagues on their starboard
hand.  The only incident of the voyage was a sudden severe hurricane, a
brief summer tempest which raged throughout one night and terrified a
good many of the voyagers, whose superstitious fears were only allayed
when they saw the lambent flames of the light of Saint Elmo playing about
the rigging of the Admiral’s ship.  It was just the Admiral’s luck that
this phenomenon should be observed over his ship and over none of the
others; it added to his prestige as a person peculiarly favoured by the
divine protection, and confirmed his own belief that he held a heavenly
as well as a royal commission.

The water supply had been calculated a little too closely, and began to
run low.  The hurried preparation of the ships had resulted as usual in
bad work; most of them were leaking, and the crew were constantly at work
at the pumps; and there was the usual discontent.  Columbus, however,
knew by the signs as well as by his dead-reckoning that he was somewhere
close to land; and with a fine demonstration of confidence he increased
the ration of water, instead of lowering it, assuring the crews that they
would be ashore in a day or two.  On Saturday evening, November 2nd,
although no land was in sight, Columbus was so sure of his position that
he ordered the fleet to take in sail and go on slowly until morning.  As
the Sunday dawned and the sky to the west was cleared of the morning bank
of clouds the look-out on the Marigalante reported land ahead; and sure
enough the first sunlight of that day showed them a green and verdant
island a few leagues away.

As they approached it Columbus christened it Dominica in honour of the
day on which it was discovered.  He sailed round it; but as there was no
harbour, and as another island was in sight to the north, he sailed on in
that direction.  This little island he christened Marigalante; and going
ashore with his retinue he hoisted the royal banner, and formally took
possession of the whole group of six islands which were visible from the
high ground.  There were no inhabitants on the island, but the voyagers
spent some hours wandering about its tangled woods and smelling the rich
odours of spice, and tasting new and unfamiliar fruits.  They next sailed
on to an island to the north which Columbus christened Guadaloupe as a
memorial of the shrine in Estremadura to which he had made a pious
pilgrimage.  They landed on this island and remained a week there, in the
course of which they made some very remarkable discoveries.

The villagers were not altogether unfriendly, although they were shy at
first; but red caps and hawks’ bells had their usual effect.  There were
signs of warfare, in the shape of bone-tipped arrows; there were tame
parrots much larger than those of the northern islands; they found
pottery and rough wood carving, and the unmistakable stern timber of a
European vessel.  But they discovered stranger things than that.  They
found human skulls used as household utensils, and gruesome fragments of
human bodies, unmistakable remains of a feast; and they realised that at
last they were in the presence of a man-eating tribe.  Later they came to
know, something of the habits of the islanders; how they made raiding
expeditions to the neighbouring islands, and carried off large numbers of
prisoners, retaining the women as concubines and eating the men.  The
boys were mutilated and fattened like capons, being employed as labourers
until they had arrived at years of discretion, at which point they were
killed and eaten, as these cannibal epicures did not care for the flesh
of women and boys.  There were a great number of women on the island, and
many of them were taken off to the ships--with their own consent,
according to Doctor Chanca.  The men, however, eluded the Spaniards and
would not come on board, having doubtless very clear views about the
ultimate destination of men who were taken prisoners.  Some women from a
neighbouring island, who had been captured by the cannibals, came to
Columbus and begged to be taken on board his ship for protection; but
instead of receiving them he decked them with ornaments and sent them
ashore again.  The cannibals artfully stripped off their ornaments and
sent them back to get some more.

The peculiar habits of the islanders added an unusual excitement to shore
leave, and there was as a rule no trouble in collecting the crews and
bringing them off to the ships at nightfall.  But on one evening it was
discovered that one of the captains and eight men had not returned.  An
exploring party was sent of to search for them, but they came back
without having found anything, except a village in the middle of the
forest from which the inhabitants had fled at their approach, leaving
behind them in the cooking pots a half-cooked meal of human remains--an
incident which gave the explorers a distaste for further search.  Young
Alonso de Ojeda, however, had no fear of the cannibals; this was just the
kind of occasion in which he revelled; and he offered to take a party of
forty men into the interior to search for the missing men.  He went right
across the island, but was able to discover nothing except birds and
fruits and unknown trees; and Columbus, in great distress of mind, had to
give up his men for lost.  He took in wood and water, and was on the
point of weighing anchor when the missing men appeared on the shore and
signalled for a boat.  It appeared that they had got lost in a tangled
forest in the interior, that they had tried to climb the trees in order
to get their bearings by the stars, but without success; and that they
had finally struck the sea-shore and followed it until they had arrived
opposite the anchorage.

They brought some women and boys with them, and the fleet must now have
had a large number of these willing or unwilling captives.  This was the
first organised transaction of slavery on the part of Columbus, whose
design was to send slaves regularly back to Spain in exchange for the
cattle and supplies necessary for the colonies.  There was not very much
said now about religious conversion, but only about exchanging the
natives for cattle.  The fine point of Christopher’s philosophy on this
subject had been rubbed off; he had taken the first step a year ago on
the beach at Guanahani, and after that the road opened out broad before
him.  Slaves for cattle, and cattle for the islands; and wealth from
cattle and islands for Spain, and payment from Spain for Columbus, and
money from Columbus for the redemption of the Holy Sepulchre--these were
the links in the chain of hope that bound him to his pious idea.  He had
seen the same thing done by the Portuguese on the Guinea coast, and it
never occurred to him that there was anything the matter with it.  On the
contrary, at this time his idea was only to take slaves from among the
Caribs and man-eating islanders as a punishment for their misdeeds; but
this, like his other fine ideas, soon had to give way before the tide of
greed and conquest.

The Admiral was now anxious to get back to La Navidad, and discover the
condition of the colony which he had left behind him there.  He therefore
sailed from Guadaloupe on November 20th and steered to the north-west.
His captive islanders told him that the mainland lay to the south; and if
he had listened to them and sailed south he would have probably landed on
the coast of South America in a fortnight.  He shaped his course instead
to the north-west, passing many islands, but not pausing until the 14th,
when he reached the island named by him Santa Cruz.  He found more Caribs
here, and his men had a brush with them, one of the crew being wounded by
a poisoned arrow of which he died in a few days.  The Carib Chiefs were
captured and put in irons.  They sailed again and passed a group of
islets which Columbus named after Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand
Virgins; discovered Porto Rico also, in one of the beautiful harbours of
which they anchored and stayed for two days.  Sailing now to the west
they made land again on the 22nd of November; and coasting along it they
soon sighted the mountain of Monte Christi, and Columbus recognised that
he was on the north coast of Espanola.



On the 25th November 1493, Columbus once more dropped his anchor in the
harbour of Monte Christi, and a party was sent ashore to prospect for a
site suitable for the new town which he intended to build, for he was not
satisfied with the situation of La Navidad.  There was a large river
close by; and while the party was surveying the land they came suddenly
upon two dead bodies lying by the river-side, one with a rope round its
neck and the other with a rope round its feet.  The bodies were too much
decomposed to be recognisable; nevertheless to the party rambling about
in the sunshine and stillness of that green place the discovery was a
very gruesome one.  They may have thought much, but they said little.
They returned to the ship, and resumed their search on the next day, when
they found two more corpses, one of which was seen to have a large
quantity of beard.  As all the natives were beardless this was a very
significant and unpleasant discovery, and the explorers returned at once
and reported what they had seen to Columbus.  He thereupon set sail for
La Navidad, but the navigation off that part of the coast was necessarily
slow because of the number of the shoals and banks, on one of which the
Admiral’s ship had been lost the year before; and the short voyage
occupied three days.

They arrived at La Navidad late on the evening of the 27th--too late to
make it advisable to land.  Some natives came out in a canoe, rowed round
the Admiral’s ship, stopped and looked at it, and then rowed away again.
When the fleet had anchored Columbus ordered two guns to be fired; but
there was no response except from the echoes that went rattling among the
islands, and from the frightened birds that rose screaming and circling
from the shore.  No guns and no signal fires; no sign of human habitation
whatever; and no sound out of the weird darkness except the lap of the
water and the call of the birds .  .  .  .  The night passed in anxiety
and depression, and in a certain degree of nervous tension, which was
relieved at two or three o’clock in the morning by the sound of paddles
and the looming of a canoe through the dusky starlight.  Native voices
were heard from the canoe asking in a loud voice for the Admiral; and
when the visitors had been directed to the Marigalante they refused to go
on board until Columbus himself had spoken to them, and they had seen by
the light of a lantern that it was the Admiral himself.  The chief of
them was a cousin of Guacanagari, who said that the King was ill of a
wound in his leg, or that he would certainly have come himself to welcome
the Admiral.  The Spaniards?  Yes, they were well, said the young chief;
or rather, he added ominously, those that remained were well, but some
had died of illness, and some had been killed in quarrels that had arisen
among them.  He added that the province had been invaded by two
neighbouring kings who had burned many of the native houses.  This news,
although grave, was a relief from the dreadful uncertainty that had
prevailed in the early part of the night, and the Admiral’s company,
somewhat consoled, took a little sleep.

In the morning a party was sent ashore to La Navidad.  Not a boat was in
sight, nor any native canoes; the harbour was silent and deserted.  When
the party had landed and gone up to the place where the fort had been
built they found no fort there; only the blackened and charred remains of
a fort.  The whole thing had been burned level with the ground, and amid
the blackened ruins they found pieces of rag and clothing.  The natives,
instead of coming to greet them, lurked guiltily behind trees, and when
they were seen fled away into the woods.  All this was very disquieting
indeed, and in significant contrast to their behaviour of the year
before.  The party from the ship threw buttons and beads and bells to the
retiring natives in order to try and induce them to come forward, but
only four approached, one of whom was a relation of Guacanagari.  These
four consented to go into the boat and to be rowed out to the ship.
Columbus then spoke to them through his interpreter; and they admitted
what had been only too obvious to the party that went ashore--that the
Spaniards were all dead, and that not one of the garrison remained.  It
seemed that two neighbouring kings, Caonabo and Mayreni, had made an
attack upon the fort, burned the buildings, and killed and wounded most
of the defenders; and that Guacanagari, who had been fighting on their
behalf, had also been wounded and been obliged to retire.  The natives
offered to go and fetch Guacanagari himself, and departed with that

In the greatest anxiety the Admiral and his company passed that day and
night waiting for the King to come.  Early the next morning Columbus
himself went ashore and visited the spot where the settlement had been.
There he found destruction whole and complete, with nothing but a few
rags of clothing as an evidence that the place had ever been inhabited by
human beings.  As Guacanagari did not appear some of the Spaniards began
to suspect that he had had a hand in the matter, and proposed immediate
reprisal; but Columbus, believing still in the man who had “loved him so
much that it was wonderful” did not take this view, and his belief in
Guacanagari’s loyalty was confirmed by the discovery that his own
dwelling had also been burned down.

Columbus set some of his party searching in the ditch of the fort in case
any treasure should have been buried there, as he had ordered it should
be in event of danger, and while this was going on he walked along the
coast for a few miles to visit a spot which he thought might be suitable
for the new settlement.  At a distance of a mile or two he found a
village of seven or eight huts from which the inhabitants fled at his
approach, carrying such of their goods as were portable, and leaving the
rest hidden in the grass.  Here were found several things that had
belonged to the Spaniards and which were not likely to have been
bartered; new Moorish mantles, stockings, bolts of cloth, and one of the
Admiral’s lost anchors; other articles also, among them a dead man’s head
wrapped up with great care in a small basket.  Shaking their own living
heads, Columbus and his party returned.  Suddenly they came on some
suspicious-looking mounds of earth over which new grass was growing.  An
examination of these showed them to be the graves of eleven of the
Spaniards, the remains of the clothing being quite sufficient to identify
them.  Doctor Chanca, who examined them, thought that they had not been
dead two months.  Speculation came to an end in the face of this eloquent
certainty; there were the dead bodies of some of the colonists; and the
voyagers knelt round with bare heads while the bodies were replaced in
the grave and the ceremony of Christian burial performed over them.

Little by little the dismal story was elicited from the natives, who
became less timid when they saw that the Spaniards meant them no harm.
It seemed that Columbus had no sooner gone away than the colonists began
to abandon themselves to every kind of excess.  While the echo of the
Admiral’s wise counsels was yet in their ears they began to disobey his
orders.  Honest work they had no intention of doing, and although Diego
Arana, their commander, did his best to keep order, and although one or
two of the others were faithful to him and to Columbus, their authority
was utterly insufficient to check the lawless folly of the rest.  Instead
of searching for gold mines, they possessed themselves by force of every
ounce of gold they could steal or seize from the natives, treating them
with both cruelty and contempt.  More brutal excesses followed as a
matter of course.  Guacanagari, in his kindly indulgence and generosity,
had allowed them to take three native wives apiece, although he himself
and his people were content with one.  But of course the Spaniards had
thrown off all restraint, however mild, and ran amok among the native
inhabitants, seizing their wives and seducing their daughters.  Upon this
naturally followed dissensions among themselves, jealousy coming hot upon
the heels of unlawful possession; and, in the words of Irving, “the
natives beheld with astonishment the beings whom they had worshipped as
descended from the skies abandoned to the grossest of earthly passions
and raging against each other with worse than brutal ferocity.”

Upon their strifes and dissensions followed another breach of the
Admiral’s wise regulations; they no longer cared to remain together in
the fort, but split up into groups and went off with their women into the
woods, reverting to a savagery beside which the gentle existence of the
natives was high civilisation.  There were squabbles and fights in which
one or two of the Spaniards were killed; and Pedro Gutierrez and Rodrigo
de Escovedo, whom Columbus had appointed as lieutenants to Arana, headed
a faction of revolt against his authority, and took themselves off with
nine other Spaniards and a great number of women.  They had heard a great
deal about the mines of Cibao, and they decided to go in search of them
and secure their treasures for themselves.  They went inland into a
territory which was under the rule of King Caonabo, a very fierce Carib
who was not a native of Espanola, but had come there as an adventurer and
remained as a conqueror.  Although he resented the intrusion of the
Spaniards into the island he would not have dared to come and attack them
there if they had obeyed the Admiral’s orders and remained in the
territory of Guacanagari; but when they came into his own country he had
them in a trap, and it was easy for him to fall upon those foolish
swaggering Spaniards and put them to death.  He then decided to go and
take the fort.

He formed an alliance with the neighbouring king, Mayreni, whose province
was in the west of the island.  Getting together a force of warriors
these two kings marched rapidly and stealthily through the, forest for
several days until they arrived at its northern border.  They came in the
dead of night to the neighbourhood of La Navidad, where the inhabitants
of the fortress, some ten in number, were fast asleep.  Fast asleep were
the remaining dozen or so of the Spaniards who were living in houses or
huts in the neighbourhood; fast asleep also the gentle natives, not
dreaming of troubles from any quarter but that close at hand.  The sweet
silence of the tropical night was suddenly broken by frightful yells as
Caonabo and his warriors rushed the fortress and butchered the
inhabitants, setting fire to it and to the houses round about.  As their
flimsy huts burst into flames the surprised Spaniards rushed out, only to
be fallen upon by the infuriated blacks.  Eight of the Spaniards rushed
naked into the sea and were drowned; the rest were butchered.
Guacanagari manfully came to their assistance and with his own followers
fought throughout the night; but his were a gentle and unwarlike people,
and they were easily routed.  The King himself was badly wounded in the
thigh, but Caonabo’s principal object seems to have been the destruction
of the Spaniards, and when that was completed he and his warriors, laden
with the spoils, retired.

Thus Columbus, walking on the shore with his native interpreter, or
sitting in his cabin listening with knitted brow to the accounts of the
islanders, learns of the complete and utter failure of his first hopes.
It has come to this.  These are the real first-fruits of his glorious
conquest and discovery.  The New World has served but as a virgin field
for the Old Adam.  He who had sought to bring light and life to these
happy islanders had brought darkness and death; they had innocently
clasped the sword he had extended to them and cut themselves.  The
Christian occupation of the New World had opened with vice, cruelty, and
destruction; the veil of innocence had been rent in twain, and could
never be mended or joined again.  And the Earthly Paradise in which life
had gone so happily, of which sun and shower had been the true rulers,
and the green sprouting harvests the only riches, had been turned into a
shambles by the introduction of human rule and civilised standards of
wealth.  Gold first and then women, things beautiful and innocent in the
happy native condition of the islands, had been the means of the
disintegration and death of this first colony.  These are serious
considerations for any coloniser; solemn considerations for a discoverer
who is only on the verge and beginning of his empire-making; mournful
considerations for Christopher as he surveys the blackened ruins of the
fort, or stands bare-headed by the grass-covered graves.

There seemed to be a certain hesitancy on the part of Guacanagari to
present himself; for though he kept announcing his intention of coming to
visit the Admiral he did not come.  A couple of days after the discovery
of the remains, however, he sent a message to Columbus begging him to
come and see him, which the Admiral accordingly did, accompanied by a
formal retinue and carrying with him the usual presents.  Guacanagari was
in bed sure enough complaining of a wounded leg, and he told the story of
the settlement very much as Columbus had already heard it from the other
natives.  He pointed to his own wounded leg as a sign that he had been
loyal and faithful to his friendly promises; but when the leg was
examined by the surgeon in order that it might be dressed no wound could
be discovered, and it was obvious to Doctor Chanca that the skin had not
been broken.  This seemed odd; Friar Buil was so convinced that the whole
story was a deception that he wished the Admiral to execute Guacanagari
on the spot.  Columbus, although he was puzzled, was by no means
convinced that Guacanagari had been unfaithful to him, and decided to do
nothing for the present.  He invited the cacique to come on board the
flagship; which he did, being greatly interested by some of the Carib
prisoners, notably a handsome woman, named by the Spaniards Dofia
Catalina, with whom he held a long conversation.

Relations between the Admiral and the cacique, although outwardly
cordial, were altogether different from what they had been in, the happy
days after their first meeting; the man seemed to shrink from all the
evidence of Spanish power, and when they proposed to hang a cross round
his neck the native king, much as he loved trinkets and toys, expressed a
horror and fear of this jewel when he learned that it was an emblem of
the Christian faith.  He had seen a little too much of the Christian
religion; and Heaven only knows with what terror and depression the
emblem of the cross inspired him.  He went ashore; and when a messenger
was sent to search for him a few days afterwards, it was found that he
had moved his whole establishment into the interior of the island.  The
beautiful native woman Catalina escaped to shore and disappeared at the
same time; and the two events were connected in the minds of some of the
Spaniards, and held, wrongly as it turned out, to be significant of a
deep plot of native treachery.

The most urgent need was to build the new settlement and lay out a town.
Several small parties were sent out to reconnoitre the coast in both
directions, but none of them found a suitable place; and on December 7th
the whole fleet sailed to the east in the hope of finding a better
position.  They were driven by adverse winds into a harbour some thirty
miles to the east of Monte Christi, and when they went ashore they
decided that this was as good a site as any for the new town.  There was
about a quarter of a mile of level sandy beach enclosed by headlands on
either side; there was any amount of rock and stones for building, and
there was a natural barrier of hills and mountains a mile or so inland
that would protect a camp from that side.--The soil was very fertile,
the vegetation luxuriant; and the mango swamps a little way inland
drained into a basin or lake which provided an unlimited water supply.
Columbus therefore set about establishing a little town, to which he gave
the name of Isabella.  Streets and squares were laid out, and rows of
temporary buildings made of wood and thatched with grass were hastily run
up for the accommodation of the members of the expedition, while the
foundations of three stone buildings were also marked out and the
excavations put in hand.  These buildings were the church, the
storehouse, and a residence for Columbus as Governor-General.  The stores
were landed, the horses and cattle accommodated ashore, the provisions,
ammunition, and agricultural implements also.  Labourers were set to
digging out the foundations of the stone buildings, carpenters to cutting
down trees and running up the light wooden houses that were to serve as
barracks for the present; masons were employed in hewing stones and
building landing-piers; and all the crowd of well-born adventurers were
set to work with their hands, much to their disgust.  This was by no
means the life they had imagined, and at the first sign of hard work they
turned sulky and discontented.  There was, to be sure, some reason for
their discontent.  Things had not quite turned out as Columbus had
promised they should; there was no store of gold, nor any sign of great
desire on the part of the natives to bring any; and to add to their other
troubles, illness began to break out in the camp.  The freshly-turned
rank soil had a bad effect on the health of the garrison; the lake, which
had promised to be so pleasant a feature in the new town, gave off
dangerous malarial vapours at night; and among the sufferers from this
trouble was Columbus himself, who endured for some weeks all the pains
and lassitude of the disagreeable fever.

The ships were now empty and ready for the return voyage, and as soon as
Columbus was better he set to work to face the situation.  After all his
promises it would never do to send them home empty or in ballast; a cargo
of stones from the new-found Indies would not be well received in Spain.
The natives had told him that somewhere in the island existed the gold
mines of Cibao, and he determined to make an attempt to find these, so
that he could send his ships home laden with a cargo that would be some
indemnity for the heavy cost of the expedition and some compensation for
the bad news he must write with regard to his first settlement.  Young
Ojeda was chosen to lead an expedition of fifteen picked men into the
interior; and as the gold mines were said to be in a part of the island
not under the command of Guacanagari, but in the territory of the dreaded
Caonabo, there was no little anxiety felt about the expedition.

Ojeda started in the beginning of January 1494, and marched southwards
through dense forests until, having crossed a mountain range, he came
down into a beautiful and fertile valley, where they were hospitably
received by the natives.  They saw plenty of gold in the sand of the
river that watered the valley, which sand the natives had a way of
washing so that the gold was separated from it; and there seemed to be so
much wealth there that Ojeda hurried back to the new city of Isabella to
make his report to Columbus.  The effect upon the discontented colonists
was remarkable.  Once more everything was right; wealth beyond the dreams
of avarice was at their hand; and all they had to do was to stretch out
their arms and take it.  Columbus felt that he need no longer delay the
despatch of twelve of his ships on the homeward voyage.  If he had not
got golden cargoes for them, at any rate he had got the next best thing,
which was the certainty of gold; and it did not matter whether it was in
the ships or in his storehouse.  He had news to send home at any rate,
and a great variety of things to ask for in return, and he therefore set
about writing his report to the Sovereigns.  Other people, as we know,
were writing letters too; the reiterated promise of gold, and the
marvellous anecdotes which these credulous settlers readily believed from
the natives, such as that there was a rock close by out of which gold
would burst if you struck it with a club, raised greed and expectation in
Spain to a fever pitch, and prepared the reaction which followed.

We may now read the account of the New World as Columbus sent it home to
the King and Queen of Spain in the end of January 1494, and as they read
it some weeks later.  Their comments, written in the margin of the
original, are printed in italics at the end of each paragraph.  It was
drawn up in the form of a memorandum, and entrusted to Antonio de Torres,
who was commanding the return expedition.

“What you, Antonio de Torres, captain of the ship Marigalante and Alcalde
of the City of Isabella, are to say and supplicate on my part to the King
and Queen, our Lords, is as follows:--

     “First.  Having delivered the letters of credence which you carry
     from me for their Highnesses, you will kiss for me their Royal feet
     and hands and will recommend me to their Highnesses as to a King and
     Queen, my natural Lords, in whose service I desire to end my days:
     as you will be able to say this more fully to their Highnesses,
     according to what you have seen and known of me.

          [“Their Highnesses hold him in their favour.]

     “Item.  Although by the letters I write to their Highnesses, and
     also the father Friar Buil and the Treasurer, they will be able to
     understand all that has been done here since our arrival, and this
     very minutely and extensively: nevertheless, you will say to their
     Highnesses on my part, that it has pleased God to give me such
     favour in their service, that up to the present time.  I do not find
     less, nor has less been found in anything than what I wrote and said
     and affirmed to their Highnesses in the past: but rather, by the
     Grace of God, I hope that it will appear, by works much more clearly
     and very soon, because such signs and indications of spices have
     been found on the shores of the sea alone, without having gone
     inland, that there is reason that very much better results may be
     hoped for: and this also may be hoped for in the mines of gold,
     because by two persons only who went to investigate, each one on his
     own part, without remaining there because there was not many people,
     so many rivers have been discovered so filled with gold, that all
     who saw it and gathered specimens of it with the hands alone, came
     away so pleased and say such things in regard to its abundance, that
     I am timid about telling it and writing it to their Highnesses: but
     because Gorbalan, who was one of the discoverers, is going yonder,
     he will tell what he saw, although another named Hojeda remains
     here, a servant of the Duke of Medinaceli, a very discreet youth and
     very prudent, who without doubt and without comparison even,
     discovered much more according to the memorandum which he brought of
     the rivers, saying that there is an incredible quantity in each one
     of them for this their Highnesses may give thanks to God, since He
     has been so favourable to them in all their affairs.

          [“Their Highnesses give many thanks to God for this, and
          consider as a very signal service all that the Admiral has done
          in this matter and is doing: because they know that after God
          they are indebted to him for all they have had, and will have
          in this affair: and as they are writing him more fully about
          this, they refer him to their letter.]

     “Item. You will say to their Highnesses, although I already have
     written it to them, that I desired greatly to be able to send them a
     larger quantity of gold in this fleet, from that which it is hoped
     may be gathered here, but the greater part of our people who are
     here, have fallen suddenly ill: besides, this fleet cannot remain
     here longer, both on account of the great expense it occasions and
     because this time is suitable for those persons who are to bring the
     things which are greatly needed here, to go and be able to return:
     as, if they delay going away from here, those who are to return will
     not be able to do so by May: and besides this, if I wished to
     undertake to go to the mines or rivers now, with the well people who
     are here, both on the sea and in the settlement on land, I would
     have many difficulties and even dangers, because in order to go
     twenty-three or twenty-four leagues from here where there are
     harbours and rivers to cross, and in order to cover such a long
     route and reach there at the time which would be necessary to gather
     the gold, a large quantity of provisions would have to be carried,
     which cannot be carried on the shoulders, nor are there beasts of
     burden here which could be used for this purpose: nor are the roads
     and passes sufficiently prepared, although I have commenced to get
     them in readiness so as to be passable: and also it was very
     inconvenient to leave the sick here in an open place, in huts, with
     the provisions and supplies which are on land: for although these
     Indians may have shown themselves to the discoverers and show
     themselves every day, to be very simple and not malicious
     nevertheless, as they come here among us each day, it did not appear
     that it would be a good idea to risk losing these people and the
     supplies.  This loss an Indian with a piece of burning wood would be
     able to cause by setting fire to the huts, because they are always
     going and coming by night and by day: on their account, we have
     guards in the camp, while the settlement is open and defenceless.

          [“That he did well.]

     “Moreover, as we have seen among those who went by land to make
     discoveries that the greater part fell sick after returning, and
     some of them even were obliged to turn back on the road, it was also
     reasonable to fear that the same thing would happen to those who are
     well, who would now go, and as a consequence they would run the risk
     of two dangers: the one, that of falling sick yonder, in the same
     work, where there is no house nor any defence against that cacique
     who is called Caonabb, who is a very bad man according to all
     accounts, and much more audacious and who, seeing us there, sick and
     in such disorder, would be able to undertake what he would not dare
     if we were well: and with this difficulty there is another--that of
     bringing here what gold we might obtain, because we must either
     bring a small quantity and go and come each day and undergo the risk
     of sickness, or it must be sent with some part of the people,
     incurring the same danger of losing it.

          [“He did well.]

     “So that, you will say to their Highnesses, that these are the
     causes why the fleet has not been at present detained, and why more
     gold than the specimens has not been sent them: but confiding in the
     mercy of God, who in everything and for everything has guided us as
     far as here, these people will quickly become convalescent, as they
     are already doing, because only certain places in the country suit
     them and they then recover; and it is certain that if they had some
     fresh meat in order to convalesce, all with the aid of God would
     very quickly be on foot, and even the greater part would already be
     convalescent at this time: nevertheless they will be re-established.
     With the few healthy ones who remain here, each day work is done
     toward enclosing the settlement and placing it in a state of some
     defence and the supplies in safety, which will be accomplished in a
     short time, because it is to be only a small dry wall.  For the
     Indians are not a people to undertake anything unless they should
     find us sleeping, even though they might have thought of it in the
     manner in which they served the others who remained here.  Only on
     account of their (the Spaniards’) lack of caution--they being so
     few--and the great opportunities they gave the Indians to have and
     do what they did, they would never have dared to undertake to injure
     them if they had seen that they were cautious.  And this work being
     finished, I will then undertake to go to the said rivers, either
     starting upon the road from here and seeking the best possible
     expedients, or going around the island by sea as far as that place
     from which it is said it cannot be more than six or seven leagues to
     the said rivers.  In such a manner that the gold can be gathered and
     placed in security in some fortress or tower which can then be
     constructed there, in order to keep it securely until the time when
     the two caravels return here, and in order that then, with the first
     suitable weather for sailing this course, it may be sent to a place
     of safety.

          [“That this is well and must be done in this manner.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses, as has been said, that the
     cause of the general sicknesses common to all is the change of water
     and air, because we see that it extends to all conditions and few
     are in danger: consequently, for the preservation of health, after
     God, it is necessary that these people be provided with the
     provisions to which they are accustomed in Spain, because neither
     they, nor others who may come anew, will be able to serve their
     Highnesses if they are not well: and this provision must continue
     until a supply is accumulated here from what shall be sowed and
     planted here.  I say wheat and barley, and vines, of which little
     has been done this year because a site for the town could not be
     selected before, and then when it was selected the few labourers who
     were here became sick, and they, even though they had been well, had
     so few and such lean and meagre beasts of burden, that they were
     able to do but little: nevertheless, they have sown something, more
     in order to try the soil which appears very wonderful, so that from
     it some relief may be hoped in our necessities.  We are very sure,
     as the result makes it apparent to us, that in this country wheat as
     well as the vine will grow very well: but the fruit must be waited
     for, which, if it corresponds to the quickness with which the wheat
     grows and of some few vine-shoots which were planted, certainly will
     not cause regret here for the productions of Andalusia or Sicily:
     neither is it different with the sugar-canes according to the manner
     in which some few that were planted have grown.  For it is certain
     that the sight of the land of these islands, as well of the
     mountains and sierras and waters as of the plains where there are
     rich rivers, is so beautiful, that no other land on which the sun
     shines can appear better or as beautiful.

          [“Since the land is such, it must be managed that the greatest
          possible quantity of all things shall be sown, and Don Juan de
          Fonseca is to be written to send continually all that is
          necessary for this purpose.]

     “Item.  You will say that, inasmuch as much of the wine which the
     fleet brought was wasted on this journey, and this, according to
     what the greater number say, was because of the bad workmanship
     which the coopers did in Seville, the greatest necessity we feel
     here at the present time is for wines, and it is what we desire most
     to have and although we may have biscuit as well as wheat sufficient
     for a longer time, nevertheless it is necessary that a reasonable
     quantity should also be sent, because the journey is long and
     provision cannot be made each day and in the same manner some salted
     meat, I say bacon, and other salt meat better than that we brought
     on this journey.  It is necessary that each time a caravel comes
     here, fresh meat shall be sent, and even more than that, lambs and
     little ewe lambs, more females than males, and some little yearling
     calves, male and female, and some he-asses and she-asses and some
     mares for labour and breeding, as there are none of these animals
     here of any value or which can be made use of by man.  And because I
     apprehend that their Highnesses may not be, in Seville, and that the
     officials or ministers will not provide these things without their
     express order, and as it is necessary they should come at the first
     opportunity, and as in consultation and reply the time for the
     departure of the vessels-which must be here during all of Maywill be
     past: you will say to their Highnesses that I charged and commanded
     you to pledge the gold you are carrying yonder and place it in
     possession of some merchant in Seville, who will furnish therefor
     the necessary maravedis to load two caravels with wine and wheat and
     the other things of which you are taking a memorandum; which
     merchant will carry or send the said gold to their Highnesses that
     they may see it and receive it, and cause what shall have been
     expended for fitting out and loading of the said two caravels to be
     paid: and in order to comfort and strengthen these people remaining
     here, the utmost efforts must be made for the return of these
     caravels for all the month of May, that the people before commencing
     the summer may see and have some refreshment from these things,
     especially the invalids: the things of which we are already in great
     need here are such as raisins, sugar, almonds, honey and rice, which
     should have been sent in large quantities and very little was sent,
     and that which came is already used and consumed, and even the
     greater part of the medicines which were brought from there, on
     account of the multitude of sick people.  You are carrying memoranda
     signed by my hand, as has been said, of things for the people in
     good health as well as for the sick.  You will provide these things
     fully if the money is sufficient, or at least the things which it is
     most necessary to send at once, in order that the said two vessels
     can bring them, and you can arrange with their Highnesses, to have
     the remaining things sent by other vessels as quickly as possible.

          [“Their Highnesses sent an order to Don Juan de Fonseca to
          obtain at once information about the persons who committed the
          fraud of the casks, and to cause all the damage to the wine to
          be recovered from them, with the costs: and he must see that
          the canes which are sent are of good quality, and that the
          other things mentioned here are provided at once.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses that as there is no
     language here by means of which these people can be made to
     understand our Holy Faith, as your Highnesses and also we who are
     here desire, although we will do all we can towards it--I am sending
     some of the cannibals in the vessels, men and women and male and
     female children, whom their Highnesses can order placed with persons
     from whom they can better learn the language, making use of them in
     service, and ordering that little by little more pains be taken with
     them than with other slaves, that they may learn one from the other:
     if they do not see or speak with each other until some time has
     passed, they will learn more quickly there than here, and will be
     better interpreters--although we will not cease to do as much as
     possible here.  It is true that as there is little intercourse
     between these people from one island to another, there is some
     difference in their language, according to how far distant they are
     from each other.  And as, of the other islands, those of the
     cannibals are very large and very well populated, it would appear
     best to take some of their men and women and send them yonder to
     Castile, because by taking them away, it may cause them to abandon
     at once that inhuman custom which they have of eating men: and by
     learning the language there in Castile, they will receive baptism
     much more quickly, and provide for the safety of their souls.  Even
     among the peoples who are not cannibals we shall gain great credit,
     by their seeing that we can seize and take captive those from whom
     they are accustomed to receive injuries, and of whom they are in
     such terror that they are frightened by one man alone.  You will
     certify to their Highnesses that the arrival here and sight of such
     a fine fleet all together has inspired very great authority here and
     assured very great security for future things: because all the
     people on this great island and in the other islands, seeing the
     good treatment which those who well behave receive, and the bad
     treatment given to those who behave ill, will very quickly render
     obedience, so that they can be considered as vassals of their
     Highnesses.  And as now they not only do willingly whatever is
     required of them by our people, but further, they voluntarily
     undertake everything which they understand may please us, their
     Highnesses may also be certain that in many respects, as much for
     the present as for the future, the coming of this fleet has given
     them a great reputation, and not less yonder among the Christian
     princes: which their Highnesses will be better able to consider and
     understand than I can tell them.

          [“That he is to be told what has befallen the cannibals who
          came here.  That it is very well and must be done in this
          manner, but that he must try there as much as possible to bring
          them to our Holy Catholic faith and do the same with the
          inhabitants of the islands where he is.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses that the safety of the
     souls of the said cannibals, and further of those here, has inspired
     the thought that the more there are taken yonder, the better it will
     be, and their Highnesses can be served by it in this manner: having
     seen how necessary the flocks and beasts of burden are here, for the
     sustenance of the people who must be here, and even of all these
     islands, their Highnesses can give licence and permission to a
     sufficient number of caravels to come here each year, and bring the
     said flocks and other supplies and things to settle the country and
     make use of the land: and this at reasonable prices at the expense
     of those who bring them: and these things can be paid for in slaves
     from among these cannibals, a very proud and comely people, well
     proportioned and of good intelligence, who having been freed from
     that inhumanity, we believe will be better than any other slaves.
     They will be freed from this cruelty as soon as they are outside
     their country, and many of them can be taken with the row-boats
     which it is known how to build here: it being understood, however,
     that a trustworthy person shall be placed on each one of the
     caravels coming here, who shall forbid the said caravels to stop at
     any other place or island than this place, where the loading and
     unloading of all the merchandise must be done.  And further, their
     Highnesses will be able to establish their rights over these slaves
     which are taken from here yonder to Spain.  And you will bring or
     send a reply to this, in order that the necessary preparations may
     be made here with more confidence if it appears well to their

          [“This project must be held in abeyance for the present until
          another method is suggested from there, and the Admiral may
          write what he thinks in regard to it.]

     “Item.  Also you will say to their Highnesses that it is more
     profitable and costs less to hire the vessels as the merchants hire
     them for Flanders, by tons, rather than in any other manner:
     therefore I charged you to hire the two caravels which you are to
     send here, in this manner: and all the others which their Highnesses
     send here can be hired thus, if they consider it for their service
     but I do not intend to say this of those vessels which are to come
     here with their licence, for the slave trade.

          [“Their Highnesses order Don Juan de Fonseca to hire the
          caravels in this manner if it can be done.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses, that to avoid any further
     cost, I bought these caravels of which you are taking a memorandum
     in order to retain them here with these two ships: that is to say
     the Gallega and that other, the Capitana, of which I likewise
     purchased the three-eighths from the master of it, for the price
     given in the said memorandum which you are taking, signed by my
     hand.  These ships not only will give authority and great security
     to the people who are obliged to remain inland and make arrangements
     with the Indians to gather the gold, but they will also be of
     service in any other dangerous matter which may arise with a strange
     people; besides the caravels are necessary for the discovery of the
     mainland and the other islands which lie between here and there: and
     you will entreat their Highnesses to order the maravedis which these
     ships cost, paid at the times which they have been promised, because
     without doubt they will soon receive what they cost, according to
     what I believe and hope in the mercy of God.

          [“The Admiral has done well, and to tell him that the sum has
          been paid here to the one who sold the ship, and Don Juan de
          Fonseca has been ordered to pay for the two caravels which the
          Admiral bought.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses, and will supplicate on my
     part as humbly as possible, that it may please them to reflect on
     what they will learn most fully from the letters and other writings
     in regard to the peace and tranquillity and concord of those who are
     here: and that for the service of their Highnesses such persons may
     be selected as shall not be suspected, and who will give more
     attention to the matters for which they are sent than to their own
     interests: and since you saw and knew everything in regard to this
     matter, you will speak and will tell their Highnesses the truth
     about all the things as you understood them, and you will endeavour
     that the provision which their Highnesses make in regard to it shall
     come with the first ships if possible, in order that there may be no
     scandals here in a matter of so much importance in the service of
     their Highnesses.

          [“Their Highnesses are well informed in regard to this matter,
          and suitable provision will be made for everything.]

     “Item.  You will tell their Highnesses of the situation of this
     city, and the beauty of the surrounding province as you saw and
     understood it, and how I made you its Alcade, by the powers which I
     have for same from their Highnesses: whom I humbly entreat to hold
     the said provision in part satisfaction of your services, as I hope
     from their Highnesses.

          [“It pleases their Highnesses that you shall be Alcade.]

     “Item.  Because Mosen Pedro Margarite, servant of their Highnesses,
     has done good service, and I hope he will do the same henceforward
     in matters which are entrusted to him, I have been pleased to have
     him remain here, and also Gaspar and Beltran, because they are
     recognised servants of their Highnesses, in order to intrust them
     with matters of confidence.  You will specialty entreat their
     Highnesses in regard to the said Mosen Pedro, who is married and has
     children, to provide him with some charge in the order of Santiago,
     whose habit he wears, that his wife and children may have the
     wherewith to live.  In the same manner you will relate how well and
     diligently Juan Aguado, servant of their Highnesses, has rendered
     service in everything which he has been ordered to do, and that I
     supplicate their Highnesses to have him and the aforesaid persons in
     their charge and to reward them.

          [“Their Highnesses order 30,000 maravedis to be assigned to
          Mosen Pedro each year, and to Gaspar and Beltran, to each one,
          15,000 maravedis each year, from the present, August 15, 1494,
          henceforward: and thus the Admiral shall cause to be paid to
          them whatever must be paid yonder in the Indies, and Don Juan
          de Fonseca whatever must be paid here: and in regard to Juan
          Iguado, their Highnesses will hold him in remembrance.]

     “Item.  You will tell their Highnesses of the labour performed by
     Dr. Chanca, confronted with so many invalids, and still more because
     of the lack of provisions and nevertheless, he acts with great
     diligence and charity in everything pertaining to his office.  And
     as their Highnesses referred to me the salary which he was to
     receive here, because, being here, it is certain that he cannot take
     or receive anything from any one, nor earn money by his office as he
     earned it in Castile, or would be able to earn it being at his ease
     and living in a different manner from the way he lives here;
     therefore, notwithstanding he swears that he earned more there,
     besides the salary which their Highnesses gave him, I did not wish
     to allow more than 50,000 maravedis each year for the work he
     performs here while he remains here.  This I entreat their
     Highnesses to order allowed to him with the salary from here, and
     that, because he says and affirms that all the physicians of their
     Highnesses who are employed in Royal affairs or things similar to
     this, are accustomed to have by right one day’s wages in all the
     year from all the people.  Nevertheless, I have been informed and
     they tell me, that however this may be, the custom is to give them a
     certain sum, fixed according to the will and command of their
     Highnesses in compensation for that day’s wages.  You will entreat
     their Highnesses to order provision made as well in the matter of
     the salary as of this custom, in such manner that the said Dr.
     Chanca may have reason to be satisfied.

          [“Their Highnesses are pleased in regard to this matter of Dr.
          Chanca, and that he shall be paid what the Admiral has assigned
          him, together with his salary.
          “In regard to the day’s wages of the physicians, they are not
          accustomed to receive it, save where the King, our Lord, may be
          in persona.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses that Coronel is a man for
     the service of their Highnesses in many things, and how much service
     he has rendered up to the present in all the most necessary matters,
     and the need we feel of him now that he is sick; and that rendering
     service in such a manner, it is reasonable that he should receive
     the fruit of his service, not only in future favours, but in his
     present salary, so that he and those who are here may feel that
     their service profits them; because, so great is the labour which
     must be performed here in gathering the gold that the persons who
     are so diligent are not to be held in small consideration; and as,
     for his skill, he was provided here by me with the office of
     Alguacil Mayor of these Indies; and since in the provision the
     salary is left blank, you will say that I supplicate their
     Highnesses to order it filled in with as large an amount as they may
     think right, considering his services, confirming to him the
     provision I have given him here, and assuring it to him annually.

          [“Their Highnesses order that 15,000 maravedis more than his
          salary shall be assigned him each year, and that it shall be
          paid to him with his salary.]

     “In the same manner you will tell their Highnesses how the lawyer
     Gil Garcia came here for Alcalde Mayor and no salary has been named
     or assigned to him; and he is a capable person, well educated and
     diligent, and is very necessary here; that I entreat their
     Highnesses to order his salary named and assigned, so that he can
     sustain himself, and that it may be paid from the money allowed for
     salaries here.

          “[Their Highnesses order 20,000 maravedis besides his salary
          assigned to him each year, as long as he remains yonder, and
          that it shall be paid him when his salary is paid.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses, although it is already
     written in the letters, that I do not think it will be possible to
     go to make discoveries this year, until these rivers in which gold
     is found are placed in the most suitable condition for the service
     of their Highnesses, as afterwards it can be done much better.
     Because it is a thing which no one can do without my presence,
     according to my will or for the service of their Highnesses, however
     well it may be done, as it is doubtful what will be satisfactory to
     a man unless he is present.

          [“Let him endeavour that the amount of this gold may be known
          as precisely as possible.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses that the Squires who came
     from Granada showed good horses in the review which took place at
     Seville, and afterward at the embarkation I did not see them because
     I was slightly unwell, and they replaced them with such horses that
     the best of them do not appear to be worth 2000 maravedis, as they
     sold the others and bought these; and this was done in the same way
     to many people as I very well saw yonder, in the reviews at Seville.
     It appears that Juan de Soria, after he had been given the money for
     the wages, for some interest of his own substituted others in place
     of those I expected to find here, and I found people whom I had
     never seen.  In this matter he was guilty of great wickedness, so
     that I do not know if I should complain of him alone.  On this
     account, having seen that the expenses of these Squires have been
     defrayed until now, besides their wages and also wages for their
     horses, and it is now being done: and they are persons who, when
     they are sick or when they do not desire to do so, will not allow
     any use to be made of their horses save by themselves: and their,
     Highnesses do not desire that these horses should be purchased of
     them, but that they should be used in the service of their
     Highnesses: and it does not appear to them that they should do
     anything or render any service except on horseback, which at the
     present time is not much to the purpose: on this account, it seems
     that it would be better to buy the horses from them, since they are
     of so little value, and not have these disagreements with them every
     day.  Therefore their Highnesses may determine this as will best
     serve them.

          [“Their Highnesses order Don Juan de Fonseca to inform himself
          in regard to this matter of the horses, and if it shall be
          found true that this fraud was committed, those persons shall
          be sent to their Highnesses to be punished: and also he is to
          inform himself in regard to what is said of the other people,
          and send the result in the examination to their Highnesses; and
          in regard to these Squires, their Highnesses command that they
          remain there and render service, since they belong to the
          guards and servants of their Highnesses: and their Highnesses
          order the Squires to give up the horses each time it is
          necessary and the Admiral orders it, and if the horses receive
          any injury through others using them, their Highnesses order
          that the damage shall be paid to them by means of the Admiral.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses that more than 200 persons
     have come here without wages, and there are some of them who render
     good service.  And as it is ordered that the others rendering
     similar service should be paid: and as for these first three years
     it would be of great benefit to have 1000 men here to settle, and
     place this island and the rivers of gold in very great security, and
     even though there were 100 horsemen nothing would be lost, but
     rather it seems necessary, although their Highnesses will be able to
     do without these horsemen until gold is sent: nevertheless, their
     Highnesses must send to say whether wages shall be paid to these 200
     persons, the same as to the others rendering good service, because
     they are certainly necessary, as I have said in the beginning of
     this memorandum.

          [“In regard to these 200 persons, who are here said to have
          gone without wages, their Highnesses order that they shall take
          the places of those who went for wages, who have failed or
          shall fail to fulfil their engagements, if they are skilful and
          satisfactory to the Admiral.  And their Highnesses order the
          Purser (Contador) to enrol them in place of those who fail to
          fulfil their engagements, as the Admiral shall instruct him.]

     “Item.  As the cost of these people can be in some degree lightened
     and the better part of the expense could be avoided by the same
     means employed by other Princes in other places: it appears, that it
     would be well to order brought in the ships, besides the other
     things which are for the common maintenance and the medicines, shoes
     and the skins from which to order the shoes made, common shirts and
     others, jackets, linen, sack-coats, trowsers and cloths suitable for
     wearing apparel, at reasonable prices: and other things like
     conserves which are not included in rations and are for the
     preservation of health, which things all the people here would
     willingly receive to apply on their wages and if these were
     purchased yonder in Spain by faithful Ministers who would act for
     the advantage of their Highnesses, something would be saved.
     Therefore you will learn the will of their Highnesses about this
     matter, and if it appears to them to be of benefit to them, then it
     must be placed in operation.

          [“This arrangement is to be in abeyance until the Admiral
          writes more fully, and at another time they will send to order
          Don Juan de Fonseca with Jimeno de Bribiesca to make provision
          for the same.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses that inasmuch as yesterday
     in the review people were found who were without arms, which I think
     happened in part by that exchange which took place yonder in
     Seville, or in the harbour when those who presented themselves armed
     were left, and others were taken who gave something to those who
     made the exchange, it seems that it would be well to order 200
     cuirasses sent, and 100 muskets and 100 crossbows, and a large
     quantity of arsenal supplies, which is what we need most, and all
     these arms can be given to those who are unarmed.

          [“Already Don Juan de Fonseca has been written to make
          provision for this.]

     “Item.  Inasmuch as some artisans who came here, such as masons and
     other workmen, are married and have wives yonder in Spain, and would
     like to have what is owing them from their wages given to their
     wives or to the persons to whom they will send their requirements in
     order that they may buy for them the things which they need here I
     supplicate their Highnesses to order it paid to them, because it is
     for their benefit to have these persons provided for here.

          [“Their Highnesses have already sent orders to Don Juan de
          Fonseca to make provision for this matter.]

     “Item.  Because, besides the other things which are asked for there
     according to the memoranda which you are carrying signed by my hand,
     for the maintenance of the persons in good health as well as for the
     sick ones, it would be very well to have fifty casks of molasses
     (miel de azucar) from the island of Madeira, as it is the best
     sustenance in the world and the most healthful, and it does not
     usually cost more than two ducats per cask, without the cask: and if
     their Highnesses order some caravel to stop there in returning, it
     can be purchased and also ten cases of sugar, which is very
     necessary; as this is the best season of the year to obtain it, I
     say between the present time and the month of April, and to obtain
     it at a reasonable price.  If their Highnesses command it, the order
     could be given, and it would not be known there for what place it is

          [“Let Don Juan de Fonseca make provision for this matter.]

     “Item.  You will say to their Highnesses that although the rivers
     contain gold in the quantity related by those who have seen it, yet
     it is certain that the gold is not engendered in the rivers but
     rather on the land, the waters of the rivers which flow by the mines
     bringing it enveloped in the sands: and as among these rivers which
     have been discovered there are some very large ones, there are
     others so small that they are fountains rather than rivers, which
     are not more than two fingers of water in depth, and then the source
     from which they spring may be found: for this reason not only
     labourers to gather it in the sand will be profitable, but others to
     dig for it in the earth, which will be the most particular operation
     and produce a great quantity.  And for this, it will be well for
     their Highnesses to send labourers, and from among those who work
     yonder in Spain in the mines of Almaden, that the work may be done
     in both ways.  Although we will not await them here, as with the
     labourers we have here we hope, with the aid of God, once the people
     are in good health, to amass a good quantity of gold to be sent on
     the first caravels which return.

          [“This will be fully provided for in another manner.  In the
          meantime their Highnesses order Don Yuan de Fonseca to send the
          best miners he can obtain; and to write to Almaden to have the
          greatest possible number taken from there and sent.]

     “Item.  You will entreat their Highnesses very humbly on my part, to
     consider Villacorta as speedily recommended to them, who, as their
     Highnesses know, has rendered great service in this business, and
     with a very good will, and as I know him, he is a diligent person
     and very devoted to their service: it will be a favour to me if he
     is given some confidential charge for which he is fitted, and where
     he can show his desire to serve them and his diligence: and this you
     will obtain in such a way that Villacorta may know by the result,
     that what he has done for me when I needed him profits him in this

          [“It will be done thus.]

     “Item.  That the said Mosen Pedro and Gaspar and Beltran and others
     who have remained here gave up the captainship of caravels, which
     have now returned, and are not receiving wages: but because they are
     persons who must be employed in important matters and of confidence,
     their compensation, which must be different from the others, has not
     been determined.  You will entreat their Highnesses on my part to
     determine what is to be given them each year, or by the month,
     according to their service.

     “Done in the city of Isabella, January 30, 1494.

          [“This has already been replied to above, but as it is stated
          in the said item that they enjoy their salary, from the present
          time their Highnesses order that their wages shall be paid to
          all of them from the time they left their captainships.”]

This document is worth studying, written as it was in circumstances that
at one moment looked desperate and at another were all hope.  Columbus
was struggling manfully with difficulties that were already beginning to
be too much for him.  The Man from Genoa, with his guiding star of faith
in some shore beyond the mist and radiance of the West--see into what
strange places and to what strange occupations this star has led him!
The blue visionary eyes, given to seeing things immediately beyond the
present horizon, must fix themselves on accounts and requisitions, on the
needs of idle, aristocratic, grumbling Spaniards; must fix themselves
also on that blank void in the bellies of his returning ships, where the
gold ought to have been.  The letter has its practical side; the
requisitions are made with good sense and a grasp of the economic
situation; but they have a deeper significance than that.  All this talk
about little ewe lambs, wine and bacon (better than the last lot, if it
please your Highnesses), little yearling calves, and fifty casks of
molasses that can be bought a ducat or two cheaper in Madeira in the
months of April and May than at any other time or place, is only half
real.  Columbus fills his Sovereigns’ ears with this clamour so that he
shall not hear those embarrassing questions that will inevitably be asked
about the gold and the spices.  He boldly begins his letter with the old
story about “indications of spices” and gold “in incredible quantities,”
with a great deal of “moreover” and “besides,” and a bold, pompous,
pathetic “I will undertake”; and then he gets away from that subject by
wordy deviations, so that to one reading his letter it really might seem
as though the true business of the expedition was to provide Coronel,
Mosen Pedro, Gaspar, Beltran, Gil Garcia, and the rest of them with work
and wages.  Everything that occurs to him, great or little, that makes it
seem as though things were humming in the new settlement, he stuffs into
this document, shovelling words into the empty hulls of the ships, and
trying to fill those bottomless pits with a stream of talk.  A system of
slavery is boldly and bluntly sketched; the writer, in the hurry and
stress of the moment, giving to its economic advantages rather greater
prominence than to its religious glories.  The memorandum, for all its
courageous attempt to be very cool and orderly and practical, gives us,
if ever a human document did, a picture of a man struggling with an
impossible situation which he will not squarely face, like one who should
try to dig up the sea-shore and keep his eyes shut the while.

In the royal comments written against the document one seems to trace the
hand of Isabella rather than of Ferdinand.  Their tone is matter-of-fact,
cool, and comforting, like the coolness of a woman’s hand placed on a
feverish brow.  Isabella believed in him; perhaps she read between the
lines of this document, and saw, as we can see, how much anxiety and
distress were written there; and her comments are steadying and
encouraging.  He has done well; what he asks is being attended to; their
Highnesses are well informed in regard to this and that matter; suitable
provision will be made for everything; but let him endeavour that the
amount of this gold may be known as precisely as possible.  There is no
escaping from that.  The Admiral (no one knows it better than himself)
must make good his dazzling promises, and coin every boastful word into a
golden excelente of Spain.  Alas!  he must no longer write about the lush
grasses, the shining rivers, the brightly coloured parrots, the gaudy
flies and insects, the little singing birds, and the nights that are like
May in Cordova.  He must find out about the gold; for it has come to grim
business in the Earthly Paradise.




The sight of the greater part of their fleet disappearing in the
direction of home threw back the unstable Spanish colony into doubt and
despondency.  The brief encouragement afforded by Ojeda’s report soon
died away, and the actual discomforts of life in Isabella were more
important than visionary luxuries that seemed to recede into the distance
with the vanishing ships.  The food supply was the cause of much
discomfort; the jobbery and dishonesty which seem inseparable from the
fitting out of a large expedition had stored the ships with bad wine and
imperfectly cured provisions; and these combined with the unhealthy
climate to produce a good deal of sickness.  The feeling against
Columbus, never far below the Spanish surface, began to express itself
definitely in treacherous consultations and plots; and these were
fomented by Bernal Diaz, the comptroller of the colony, who had access to
Columbus’s papers and had seen the letter sent by him to Spain.  Columbus
was at this time prostrated by an attack of fever, and Diaz took the
opportunity to work the growing discontent up to the point of action.  He
told the colonists that Columbus had painted their condition in far too
favourable terms; that he was deceiving them as well as the Sovereigns;
and a plot was hatched to seize the ships that remained and sail for
home, leaving Columbus behind to enjoy the riches that he had falsely
boasted about.  They were ready to take alarm at anything, and to believe
anything one way or the other; and as they had believed Ojeda when he
came back with his report of riches, now they believed Cado, the assayer,
who said that even such gold as had been found was of a very poor and
worthless quality.  The mutiny developed fast; and a table of charges
against Columbus, which was to be produced in Spain as a justification
for it, had actually been drawn up when the Admiral, recovering from his
illness, discovered what was on foot.  He dealt promptly and firmly with
it in his quarterdeck manner, which was always far more effective than
his viceregal manner.  Diaz was imprisoned and lodged in chains on board
one of the ships, to be sent to Spain for trial; and the other
ringleaders were punished also according to their deserts.  The guns and
ammunition were all stored together on one ship under a safe guard, and
the mutiny was stamped out.  But the Spaniards did not love Columbus any
the better for it; did not any the more easily forgive him for being in
command of them and for being a foreigner.

But it would never do for the colony to stagnate in Isabella, and
Columbus decided to make a serious attempt, not merely to discover the
gold of Cibao, but to get it.  He therefore organised a military
expedition of about 400 men, including artificers, miners, and carriers,
with the little cavalry force that had been brought out from Spain.
Every one who had armour wore it, flags and banners were carried, drums
and trumpets were sounded; the horses were decked out in rich caparisons,
and as glittering and formidable a show was made as possible.  Leaving
his brother James in command of the settlement, Columbus set out on the
12th of March to the interior of the island.  Through the forest and up
the mountainside a road was cut by pioneers from among the aristocratic
adventurers who had come with the party; which road, the first made in
the New World, was called El Puerto de los Hidalgos.  The formidable,
glittering cavalcade inspired the natives with terror and amazement; they
had never seen horses before, and when one of the soldiers dismounted it
seemed to them as though some terrifying two-headed, six-limbed beast had
come asunder.  What with their fright of the horses and their desire to
possess the trinkets that were carried they were very friendly and
hospitable, and supplied the expedition with plenty of food.  At last,
after passing mountain ranges that made their hearts faint, and rich
valleys that made them hopeful again, the explorers came to the mountains
of Cibao, and passing over the first range found themselves in a little
valley at the foot of the hills where a river wound round a fertile plain
and there was ample accommodation for an encampment.  There were the
usual signs of gold, and Columbus saw in the brightly coloured stones of
the river-bed evidence of unbounded wealth in precious stones.  At last
he had come to the place!  He who had doubted so much, and whose faith
had wavered, had now been led to a place where he could touch and handle
the gold and jewels of his desire; and he therefore called the place
Saint Thomas.  He built a fort here, leaving a garrison of fifty-six men
under the command of Pedro Margarite to collect gold from the natives,
and himself returned to Isabella, which he reached at the end of March.

Enforced absence from the thing he has organised is a great test of
efficiency in any man.  The world is full of men who can do things
themselves; but those who can organise from the industry of their men a
machine which will steadily perform the work whether the organiser is
absent or present are rare indeed.  Columbus was one of the first class.
His own power and personality generally gave him some kind of mastery
over any circumstances in which he was immediately concerned; but let him
be absent for a little time, and his organisation went to pieces.  No one
was better than he at conducting a one-man concern; and his conduct of
the first voyage, so long as he had his company under his immediate
command, was a model of efficiency.  But when the material under his
command began to grow and to be divided into groups his life became a
succession of ups and downs.  While he was settling and disciplining one
group mutiny and disorder would attack the other; and when he went to
attend to them, the first one immediately fell into confusion again.  He
dealt with the discontent in Isabella, organising the better disposed
part of it in productive labour, and himself marching the malcontents
into something like discipline and order, leaving them at Saint Thomas,
as we have seen, usefully collecting gold.  But while he was away the
people at Isabella had got themselves into trouble again, and when he
arrived there on the morning of March 29th he found the town in a
deplorable condition.  The lake beside which the city had been built, and
which seemed so attractive and healthy a spot, turned out to be nothing
better than a fever trap.  Drained from the malarial marshes, its sickly
exhalations soon produced an epidemic that incapacitated more than half
the colony and interrupted the building operations.  The time of those
who were well was entirely occupied with the care of those who were sick,
and all productive work was at a standstill.  The reeking virgin soil had
produced crops in an incredibly short time, and the sowings of January
were ready for reaping in the beginning of April.  But there was no one
to reap them, and the further cultivation of the ground had necessarily
been neglected.

The faint-hearted Spaniards, who never could meet any trouble without
grumbling, were now in the depths of despair and angry discontent;
and it had not pleased them to be put on a short allowance of even the
unwholesome provisions that remained from the original store.  A couple
of rude hand-mills had been erected for the making of flour, and as food
was the first necessity Columbus immediately put all the able-bodied men
in the colony, whatever their rank, to the elementary manual work of
grinding.  Friar Buil and the twelve Benedictine brothers who were with
him thought this a wise order, assuming of course that as clerics they
would not be asked to work.  But great was their astonishment, and loud
and angry their criticism of the Admiral, when they found that they also
were obliged to labour with their hands.  But Columbus was firm; there
were absolutely no exceptions made; hidalgo and priest had to work
alongside of sailor and labourer; and the curses of the living mingled
with those of the dying on the man whose boastful words had brought them
to such a place and such a condition.

It was only in the nature of things that news should now arrive of
trouble at Saint Thomas.  Gold and women again; instead of bartering or
digging, the Spaniards had been stealing; and discipline had been
relaxed, with the usual disastrous results with regard to the women of
the adjacent native tribes.  Pedro Margarite sent a nervous message to
Columbus expressing his fear that Caonabo, the native king, should be
exasperated to the point of attacking them again.  Columbus therefore
despatched Ojeda in command of a force of 350 armed men to Saint Thomas
with instructions that he was to take over the command of that post,
while Margarite was to take out an expedition in search of Caonabo whom,
with his brothers, Margarite was instructed to capture at all costs.

Having thus set things going in the interior, and once more restored
Isabella to something like order, he decided to take three ships and
attempt to discover the coast of Cathay.  The old Nina, the San Juan, and
the Cordera, three small caravels, were provisioned for six months and
manned by a company of fifty-two men.  Francisco Nino went once more with
the Admiral as pilot, and the faithful Juan de la Cosa was taken to draw
charts; one of the monks also, to act as chaplain.  The Admiral had a
steward, a secretary, ten seamen and six boys to complete the company on
the Nina.  The San Juan was commanded by Alonso Perez Roldan and the
Cordera by Christoval Nino.  Diego was again left in command of the
colony, with four counsellors, Friar Buil, Fernandez Coronel, Alonso
Sanchez Carvajal, and Juan de Luxan, to assist his authority.

The Admiral sailed on April 24th, steering to the westward and touching
at La Navidad before he bore away to the island of Cuba, the southern
shore of which it was now his intention to explore.  At one of his first
anchorages he discovered a native feast going on, and when the boats from
his ships pulled ashore the feasters fled in terror--the hungry Spaniards
finishing their meal for them.  Presently, however, the feasters were
induced to come back, and Columbus with soft speeches made them a
compensation for the food that had been taken, and produced a favourable
impression, as his habit was; with the result that all along the coast he
was kindly received by the natives, who supplied him with food and fresh
fruit in return for trinkets.  At the harbour now known as Santiago de
Cuba, where he anchored on May 2nd, he had what seemed like authentic
information of a great island to the southward which was alleged to be
the source of all the gold.  The very compasses of Columbus’s ships seem
by this time to have become demagnetised, and to have pointed only to
gold; for no sooner had he heard this report than he bore away to the
south in pursuit of that faint yellow glitter that had now quite taken
the place of the original inner light of faith.

The low coast of Jamaica, hazy and blue at first, but afterwards warming
into a golden belt crowned by the paler and deeper greens of the foliage,
was sighted first by Columbus on Sunday, May 4th; and he anchored the
next day in the beautiful harbour of Saint Anne, to which he gave the
name of Santa Gloria.  To the island itself he gave the name of Santiago,
which however has never displaced its native name of Jamaica.  The dim
blue mountains and clumps of lofty trees about the bay were wonderful
even to Columbus, whose eyes must by this time have been growing
accustomed to the beauty of the West Indies, and he lost his heart to
Jamaica from the first moment that his eyes rested on its green and
golden shores.  Perhaps he was by this time a little out of conceit with
Hayti; but be that as it may he retracted all the superlatives he had
ever used for the other lands of his discovery, and bestowed them in his
heart upon Jamaica.

He was not humanly so well received as he had been on the other islands,
for when he cast anchor the natives came out in canoes threatening
hostilities and had to be appeased with red caps and hawks’ bells.  Next
day, however, Columbus wished to careen his ships, and sailed a little to
the west until he found a suitable beach at Puerto Bueno; and as he
approached the shore some large canoes filled with painted and feathered
warriors came out and attacked his ships, showering arrows and javelins,
and whooping and screaming at the Spaniards.  The guns were discharged,
and an armed party sent ashore in a boat, and the natives were soon put
to flight.  There was no renewal of hostilities; the next day the local
cacique came down offering provisions and help; presents were exchanged,
and cordial relations established.  Columbus noticed that the Jamaicans
seemed to be a much more virile community than either the Cubans or the
people of Espanola.  They had enormous canoes hollowed out of single
mahogany trees, some of them 96 feet long and 8 feet broad, which they
handled with the greatest ease and dexterity; they had a merry way with
them too, were quick of apprehension and clever at expressing their
meaning, and in their domestic utensils and implements they showed an
advance in civilisation on the other islanders of the group.  Columbus
did some trade with the islanders as he sailed along the coast, but he
does not seem to have believed much in the gold story, for after sailing
to the western point of the island he bore away to the north again and
sighted the coast of Cuba on the 18th of May.

The reason why Columbus kept returning to the coast of Cuba was that he
believed it to be the mainland of Asia.  The unlettered natives, who had
never read Marco Polo, told him that it was an island, although no man
had ever seen the end of it; but Columbus did not believe them, and
sailed westward in the belief that he would presently come upon the
country and city of Cathay.  Soon he found himself in the wonderful
labyrinth of islets and sandbanks off the south coast; and because of the
wonderful colours of their flowers and climbing plants he called them
Jardin de la Reina or Queen’s Garden.  Dangerous as the navigation
through these islands was, he preferred to risk the shoals and sandbanks
rather than round them out at sea to the southward, for he believed them
to be the islands which, according to Marco Polo, lay in masses along the
coast of Cathay.  In this adventure he had a very hard time of it; the
lead had to be used all the time, the ships often had to be towed, the
wind veered round from every quarter of the compass, and there were
squalls and tempests, and currents that threatened to set them ashore.
By great good fortune, however, they managed to get through the
Archipelago without mishap.  By June 3rd they were sailing along the
coast again, and Columbus had some conversation with an old cacique who
told him of a province called Mangon (or so Columbus understood him) that
lay to the west.  Sir John Mandeville had described the province of Mangi
as being the richest in Cathay; and of course, thought the Admiral, this
must be the place.  He went westward past the Gulf of Xagua and got into
the shallow sandy waters, now known as the Jardinillos Bank, where the
sea was whitened with particles of sand.  When he had got clear of this
shoal water he stood across a broad bay towards a native settlement where
he was able to take in yams, fruit, fish, and fresh water.

But this excitement and hard work were telling on the Admiral, and when a
native told him that there was a tribe close by with long tails, he
believed him; and later, when one of his men, coming back from a shore
expedition, reported that he had seen some figures in a forest wearing
white robes, Columbus believed that they were the people with the tails,
who wore a long garment to conceal them.

He was moving in a world of enchantment; the weather was like no weather
in any known part of the world; there were fogs, black and thick, which
blew down suddenly from the low marshy land, and blew away again as
suddenly; the sea was sometimes white as milk, sometimes black as pitch,
sometimes purple, sometimes green; scarlet cranes stood looking at them
as they slid past the low sandbanks; the warm foggy air smelt of roses;
shoals of turtles covered the waters, black butterflies circled in the
mist; and the fever that was beginning to work in the Admiral’s blood
mounted to his brain, so that in this land of bad dreams his fixed ideas
began to dominate all his other faculties, and he decided that he must
certainly be on the coast of Cathay, in the magic land described by Marco

There is nothing which illustrates the arbitrary and despotic government
of sea life so well as the nautical phrase “make it so.”  The very hours
of the day, slipping westward under the keel of an east-going ship, are
“made” by rigid decree; the captain takes his observation of sun or
stars, and announces the position of the ship to be at a certain spot on
the surface of the globe; any errors of judgment or deficiencies of
method are covered by the words “make it so.”  And in all the elusive
phenomena surrounding him the fevered brain of the Admiral discerned
evidence that he was really upon the coast of Asia, although there was no
method by which he could place the matter beyond a doubt.  The word Asia
was not printed upon the sands of Cuba, as it might be upon a map; the
lines of longitude did not lie visibly across the surface of the sea;
there was nothing but sea and land, the Admiral’s charts, and his own
conviction.  Therefore Columbus decided to “make it so.”  If there was no
other way of being sure that this was the coast of Cathay, he would
decree it to be the coast of Cathay by a legal document and by oaths and
affidavits.  He would force upon the members of his expedition a
conviction at least equal to his own; and instead of pursuing any further
the coast that stretched interminably west and south-west, he decided to
say, in effect, and once and for all, “Let this be the mainland of Asia.”

He called his secretary to him and made him draw up a form of oath or
testament, to which every member of the expedition was required to
subscribe, affirming that the land off which they were then lying (12th
June 1494), was the mainland of the Indies and that it was possible to
return to Spain by land from that place; and every officer who should
ever deny it in the future was laid under a penalty of ten thousand
maravedis, and every ship’s boy or seaman under a penalty of one hundred
lashes; and in addition, any member of the expedition denying it in the
future was to have his tongue cut out.

No one will pretend that this was the action of a sane man; neither will
any one wonder that Columbus was something less than sane after all he
had gone through, and with the beginnings of a serious illness already in
his blood.  His achievement was slipping from his grasp; the gold had not
been found, the wonders of the East had not been discovered; and it was
his instinct to secure something from the general wreck that seemed to be
falling about him, and to force his own dreams to come true, that caused
him to cut this grim and fantastic legal caper off the coast of Cuba.  He
thought it at the time unlikely, seeing the difficulties of navigation
that he had gone through, which he might be pardoned for regarding as
insuperable to a less skilful mariner, that any one should ever come that
way again; even he himself said that he would never risk his life again
in such a place.  He wished his journey, therefore, not to have been made
in vain; and as he himself believed that he had stood on the mainland of
Asia he took care to take back with him the only kind of evidence that
was possible namely, the sworn affidavits of the ships’ crews.

Perhaps in his madness he would really have gone on and tried to reach
the Golden Chersonesus of Ptolemy, which according to Marco Polo lay just
beyond, and so to steer homeward round Ceylon and the Cape of Good Hope;
in which case he would either have been lost or would have discovered
Mexico.  The crews, however, would not hear of the voyage being continued
westward.  The ships were leaking and the salt water was spoiling the
already doubtful provisions and he was forced to turn back.  He stood to
the south-east, and reached the Isle of Pines, to which he gave the name
of Evangelista, where the water-casks were filled, and from there he
tried to sail back to the east.  But he found himself surrounded by
islands and banks in every direction, which made any straight course
impossible.  He sailed south and east and west and north, and found
himself always back again in the middle of this charmed group of islands.
He spent almost a month trying to escape from them, and once his ship
went ashore on a sandbank and was only warped off with the greatest
difficulty.  On July 7th he was back again in the region of the “Queen’s
Gardens,” from which he stood across to the coast of Cuba.

He anchored and landed there, and being in great distress and difficulty
he had a large cross erected on the mainland, and had mass said.  When
the Spaniards rose from their knees they saw an old native man observing
them; and the old man came and sat down beside Columbus and talked to him
through the interpreter.  He told him that he had been in Jamaica and
Espanola as well as in Cuba, and that the coming of the Spaniards had
caused great distress to the people of the islands.

He then spoke to Columbus about religion, and the gist of what he said
was something like this: “The performance of your worship seems good to
me.  You believe that this life is not everything; so do we; and I know
that when this life is over there are two places reserved for me, to one
of which I shall certainly go; one happy and beautiful, one dreadful and
miserable.  Joy and kindness reign in the one place, which is good enough
for the best of men; and they will go there who while they have lived on
the earth have loved peace and goodness, and who have never robbed or
killed or been unkind.  The other place is evil and full of shadows, and
is reserved for those who disturb and hurt the sons of men; how important
it is, therefore, that one should do no evil or injury in this world!”

Columbus replied with a brief statement of his own theological views, and
added that he had been sent to find out if there were any persons in
those islands who did evil to others, such as the Caribs or cannibals,
and that if so he had come to punish them.  The effect of this ingenuous
speech was heightened by a gift of hawks’ bells and pieces of broken
glass; upon receiving which the good old man fell down on his knees, and
said that the Spaniards must surely have come from heaven.

A few days later the voyage to the, south-east was resumed, and some
progress was made along the coast.  But contrary winds arose which made
it impossible for the ships to round Cape Cruz, and Columbus decided to
employ the time of waiting in completing his explorations in Jamaica.
He therefore sailed due south until he once more sighted the beautiful
northern coast of that island, following it to the west and landing, as
his custom was, whenever he saw a good harbour or anchorage.  The wind
was still from the east, and he spent a month beating to the eastward
along the south coast of the island, fascinated by its beauty, and
willing to stay and explore it, but prevented by the discontent of his
crews, who were only anxious to get back to Espanola.  He had friendly
interviews with many of the natives of Jamaica, and at almost the last
harbour at which he touched a cacique with his wife and family and
complete retinue came off in canoes to the ship, begging Columbus to take
him and his household back to Spain.

Columbus considers this family, and thinks wistfully how well they would
look in Barcelona.  Father dressed in a cap of gold and green jewels,
necklace and earrings of the same; mother decked out in similar regalia,
with the addition of a small cotton apron; two sons and five brothers
dressed principally in a feather or two; two daughters mother-naked,
except that the elder, a handsome girl of eighteen, wears a jewelled
girdle from which depends a tablet as big as an ivy leaf, made of various
coloured stones embroidered on cotton.  What an exhibit for one of the
triumphal processions: “Native royal family, complete”!  But Columbus
thinks also of the scarcity of provisions on board his ships, and wonders
how all these royalties would like to live on a pint of sour wine and a
rotten biscuit each per day.  Alas! there is not sour wine and rotten
biscuit enough for his own people; it is still a long way to Espanola;
and he is obliged to make polite excuses, and to say that he will come
back for his majesty another time.

It was on the 20th of August that Columbus, having the day before seen
the last of the dim blue hills of Jamaica, sighted again the long
peninsula of Hayti, called by him Cape San Miguel, but known to us as
Cape Tiburon; although it was not until he was hailed by a cacique who
called out to him “Almirante, Almirante,” that the seaworn mariners
realised with joy that the island must be Espanola.  But they were a long
way from Isabella yet.  They sailed along the south coast, meeting
contrary winds, and at one point landing nine men who were to cross the
island, and try to reach Isabella by land.  Week followed week, and they
made very poor progress.  In the beginning of September they were caught
in a severe tempest, which separated the ships for a time, and held the
Admiral weather-bound for eight days.  There was an eclipse of the moon
during this period, and he took advantage of it to make an observation
for longitude, by which he found himself to be 5 hrs. 23 min., or 80 deg.
40’, west of Cadiz.  In this observation there is an error of eighteen
degrees, the true longitude of the island of Saona, where the observation
was taken, being 62 deg. 20’ west of Cadiz; and the error is accounted
for partly by the inaccuracy of the tables of Regiomontanus and partly by
the crudity and inexactness of the Admiral’s methods.  On the 24th of
September they at last reached the easternmost point of Espanola, named
by Columbus San Rafael.  They stood to the east a little longer, and
discovered the little island of Mona, which lies between Espanola and
Puerto Rico; and from thence shaped their course west-by-north for
Isabella.  And no sooner had the course been set for home than the
Admiral suddenly and completely collapsed; was carried unconscious to his
cabin; and lay there in such extremity that his companions gave him up
for lost.

It is no ordinary strain to which poor Christopher has succumbed.  He has
been five months at sea, sharing with the common sailors their bad food
and weary vigils, but bearing alone on his own shoulders a weight of
anxiety of which they knew nothing.  Watch has relieved watch on his
ships, but there has been no one to relieve him, or to lift the burden
from his mind.  The eyes of a nation are upon him, watchful and jealous
eyes that will not forgive him any failure; and to earn their approval he
has taken this voyage of five months, during which he has only been able
to forget his troubles in the brief hours of slumber.  Strange uncharted
seas, treacherous winds and currents, drenching surges have all done
their part in bringing him to this pass; and his body, now starved on
rotten biscuits, now glutted with unfamiliar fruits, has been preyed upon
by the tortured mind as the mind itself has been shaken and loosened by
the weakness of the body.  He lies there in his cabin in a deep stupor;
memory, sight, and all sensation completely gone from him; dead but for
the heart that beats on faintly, and the breath that comes and goes
through the parted lips.  Nino, de la Cosa, and the others come and look
at him, shake their heads, and go away again.  There is nothing to be
done; perhaps they will get him back to Isabella in time to bury him
there; perhaps not.

And meanwhile they are back again in calm and safe waters, and coasting a
familiar shore; and the faithful little Nina, shaking out her wings in
the sunny breezes, trips under the guidance of unfamiliar hands towards
her moorings in the Bay of Isabella.  It is a sad company that she
carries; for in the cabin, deaf and blind and unconscious, there lies the
heart and guiding spirit of the New World.  He does not hear the talking
of the waters past the Nina’s timbers, does not hear the stamping on the
deck and shortening of sail and unstopping of cables and getting out of
gear; does not hear the splash of the anchor, nor the screams of birds
that rise circling from the shore.  Does not hear the greetings and the
news; does not see bending over him a kind, helpful, and well-beloved
face.  He sees and hears and knows nothing; and in that state of rest and
absence from the body they carry him, still living and breathing, ashore.



We must now go back to the time when Columbus, having made what
arrangements he could for the safety of Espanola, left it under the
charge of his brother James.  Ojeda had duly marched into the interior
and taken over the command of Fort St. Thomas, thus setting free
Margarite, according to his instructions, to lead an expedition for
purposes of reconnoitre and demonstration through the island.  These, at
any rate, were Margarite’s orders, duly communicated to him by Ojeda; but
Margarite will have none of them.  Well born, well educated, well bred,
he ought at least to have the spirit to carry out orders so agreeable to
a gentleman of adventure; but unfortunately, although Margarite is a
gentleman by birth, he is a low and dishonest dog by nature.  He cannot
take the decent course, cannot even play the man, and take his share in
the military work of the colony.  Instead of cutting paths through the
forest, and exhibiting his military strength in an orderly and proper way
as the Admiral intended he should, he marches forth from St. Thomas, on
hearing that Columbus has sailed away, and encamps no further off than
the Vega Real, that pleasant place of green valleys and groves and
murmuring rivers.  He encamps there, takes up his quarters there, will
not budge from there for any Admiral; and as for James Columbus and his
counsellors, they may go to the devil for all Margarite cares.  One of
them at least, he knows--Friar Buil--is not such a fool as to sit down
under the command of that solemn-faced, uncouth young snip from Genoa;
and doubtless when he is tired of the Vega Real he and Buil can arrange
something between them.  In the meantime, here is a very beautiful
sunshiny place, abounding in all kinds of provisions; food for more than
one kind of appetite, as he has noticed when he has thrust his rude way
into the native houses and seen the shapely daughters of the islanders.
He has a little army of soldiers to forage for him; they can get him food
and gold, and they are useful also in those other marauding expeditions
designed to replenish the seraglio that he has established in his camp;
and if they like to do a little marauding and woman-stealing on their own
account, it is no affair of his, and may keep the devils in a good
temper.  Thus Don Pedro Margarite to himself.

The peaceable and gentle natives soon began to resent these gross doings.
To robbery succeeded outrage, and to outrage murder--all three committed
in the very houses of the natives; and they began to murmur, to withhold
that goodwill which the Spaniards had so sorely tried, and to develop a
threatening attitude that was soon communicated to the natives in the
vicinity of Isabella, and came under the notice of James Columbus and his
council.  Grave, bookish, wool-weaving young James, not used to military
affairs, and not at all comfortable in his command, can think of no other
expedient than--to write a letter to Margarite remonstrating with him for
his licentious excesses and reminding him of the Admiral’s instructions,
which were being neglected.

Margarite receives the letter and reads it with a contemptuous laugh.  He
is not going to be ordered about by a family of Italian wool-weavers, and
the only change in his conduct is that he becomes more and more careless
and impudent, extending the area of his lawless operations, and making
frequent visits to Isabella itself, swaggering under the very nose of
solemn James, and soon deep in consultation with Friar Buil.

At this moment, that is to say very soon after the departure of
Christopher on his voyage to Cuba and Jamaica, three ships dropped anchor
in the Bay of Isabella.  They were laden with the much-needed supplies
from Spain, and had been sent out under the command of Bartholomew
Columbus.  It will be remembered that when Christopher reached Spain
after his first voyage one of his first cares had been to write to
Bartholomew, asking him to join him.  The letter, doubtless after many
wanderings, had found Bartholomew in France at the court of Charles
VIII., by whom he was held in some esteem; in fact it was Charles who
provided him with the necessary money for his journey to Spain, for
Bartholomew had not greatly prospered, in spite of his voyage with Diaz
to the Cape of Good Hope and of his having been in England making
exploration proposals at the court of Henry VII.  He had arrived in Spain
after Columbus had sailed again, and had presented himself at court with
his two nephews, Ferdinand and Diego, both of whom were now in the
service of Prince Juan as pages.  Ferdinand and Isabella seem to have
received Bartholomew kindly.  They liked this capable navigator, who had
much of Christopher’s charm of manner, and was more a man of the world
than he.  Much more practical also; Ferdinand would be sure to like him
better than he liked Christopher, whose pompous manner and long-winded
speeches bored him.  Bartholomew was quick, alert, decisive and
practical; he was an accomplished navigator--almost as accomplished as
Columbus, as it appeared.  He was offered the command of the three ships
which were being prepared to go to Espanola with supplies; and he duly
arrived there after a prosperous voyage.  It will be remembered that
Christopher had, so far as we know, kept the secret of the road to the
new islands; and Bartholomew can have had nothing more to guide him than
a rough chart showing the islands in a certain latitude, and the distance
to be run towards them by dead-reckoning.  That he should have made an
exact landfall and sailed into the Bay of Isabella, never having been
there before, was a certificate of the highest skill in navigation.

Unfortunately it was James who was in charge of the colony; Bartholomew
had no authority, for once his ships had arrived in port his mission was
accomplished until Christopher should return and find him employment.
He was therefore forced to sit still and watch his young brother
struggling with the unruly Spaniards.  His presence, however, was no
doubt a further exasperation to the malcontents.  There existed in
Isabella a little faction of some of the aristocrats who had never,
forgiven Columbus for employing them in degrading manual labour; who had
never forgiven him in fact for being there at all, and in command over
them.  And now here was another woolweaver, or son of a wool-weaver, come
to put his finger in the pie that Christopher has apparently provided so
carefully for himself and his family.

Margarite and Buil and some others, treacherous scoundrels all of them,
but clannish to their own race and class, decide that they will put up
with it no longer; they are tired of Espanola in any case, and Margarite,
from too free indulgence among the native women, has contracted an
unpleasant disease, and thinks that a sea voyage and the attentions of a
Spanish doctor will be good for him.  It is easy for them to put their
plot into execution.  There are the ships; there is nothing, for them to
do but take a couple of them, provision them, and set sail for Spain,
where they trust to their own influence, and the story they will be able
to tell of the falseness of the Admiral’s promises, to excuse their
breach of discipline.  And sail they do, snapping their fingers at the

James and Bartholomew were perhaps glad to be rid of them, but their
relief was tempered with anxiety as to the result on Christopher’s
reputation and favour when the malcontents should have made their false
representations at Court.  The brothers were powerless to do anything in
that matter, however, and the state of affairs in Espanola demanded their
close attention.  Margarite’s little army, finding itself without even
the uncertain restraint of its commander, now openly mutinied and
abandoned itself to the wildest excesses.  It became scattered and
disbanded, and little groups of soldiers went wandering about the
country, robbing and outraging and carrying cruelty and oppression among
the natives.  Long-suffering as these were, and patiently as they bore
with the unspeakable barbarities of the Spanish soldiers, there came a
point beyond which their forbearance would not go.  An aching spirit of
unforgiveness and revenge took the place of their former gentleness and
compliance; and here and there, when the Spaniards were more brutal and
less cautious than was their brutal and incautious habit, the natives
fell upon them and took swift and bloody revenge.  Small parties found
themselves besieged and put to death whole villages, whose hospitality
had been abused, cut off wandering groups of the marauders and burned the
houses where they lodged.  The disaffection spread; and Caonabo, who had
never abated his resentment at the Spanish intrusion into the island,
thought the time had come to make another demonstration of native power.

Fortunately for the Spaniards his object was the fort of St. Thomas,
commanded by the alert Ojeda; and this young man, who was not easily to
be caught napping, had timely intelligence of his intention.  When
Caonabo, mustering ten thousand men, suddenly surrounded the fort and
prepared to attack it, he found the fifty Spaniards of the garrison more
than ready for him, and his naked savages dared not advance within the
range of the crossbows and arquebuses.  Caonabo tried to besiege the
station, watching every gorge and road through which supplies could reach
it, but Ojeda made sallies and raids upon the native force, under which
it became thinned and discouraged; and Caonabo had finally to withdraw to
his own territory.

But he was not yet beaten.  He decided upon another and much larger
enterprise, which was to induce the other caciques of the island to
co-operate with him in an attack upon Isabella, the population of which
he knew would have been much thinned and weakened by disease.  The
island was divided into five native provinces.  The northeastern part,
named Marien, was under the rule of Guacanagari, whose headquarters were
near the abandoned La Navidad.  The remaining eastern part of the
island, called Higuay, was under a chief named Cotabanama.  The western
province was Xaragua, governed by one Behechio, whose sister, Anacaona,
was the wife of Caonabo.  The middle of the island was divided into two
provinces-that which extended from the northern coast to the Cibao
mountains and included the Vega Real being governed by Guarionex, and
that which extended from the Cibao mountains to the south being governed
by Caonabo.  All these rulers were more or less embittered by the
outrages and cruelties of the Spaniards, and all agreed to join with
Caonabo except Guacanagari.  That loyal soul, so faithful to what he
knew of good, shocked and distressed as he was by outrages from which
his own people had suffered no less than the others, could not bring
himself to commit what he regarded as a breach of the laws of
hospitality.  It was upon his shores that Columbus had first landed; and
although it was his own country and his own people whose wrongs were to
be avenged, he could not bring himself to turn traitor to the grave
Admiral with whom, in those happy days of the past, he had enjoyed so
much pleasant intercourse.  His refusal to co-operate delayed the plan
of Caonabo, who directed the island coalition against Guacanagari
himself in order to bring him to reason.  He was attacked by the
neighbouring chiefs; one of his wives was killed and another captured;
but still he would not swerve from his ideal of conduct.

The first thing that Columbus recognised when he opened his eyes after
his long period of lethargy and insensibility was the face of his brother
Bartholomew bend-over him where he lay in bed in his own house at
Espanola.  Nothing could have been more welcome to him, sick, lonely and
discouraged as he was, than the presence of that strong, helpful brother;
and from the time when Bartholomew’s friendly face first greeted him he
began to get better.  His first act, as soon as he was strong enough to
sign a paper, was to appoint Bartholomew to the office of Adelantado, or
Lieutenant-Governor--an indiscreet and rather tactless proceeding which,
although it was not outside his power as a bearer of the royal seal, was
afterwards resented by King Ferdinand as a piece of impudent encroachment
upon the royal prerogative.  But Columbus was unable to transact business
himself, and James was manifestly of little use; the action was natural

In the early days of his convalescence he had another pleasant
experience, in the shape of a visit from Guacanagari, who came to express
his concern at the Admiral’s illness, and to tell him the story of what
had been going on in his absence.  The gentle creature referred again
with tears to the massacre at La Navidad, and again asserted that
innocence of any hand in it which Columbus had happily never doubted; and
he told him also of the secret league against Isabella, of his own
refusal to join it, and of the attacks to which he had consequently been
subjected.  It must have been an affecting meeting for these two, who
represented the first friendship formed between the Old World and the
New, who were both of them destined to suffer in the impact of
civilisation and savagery, and whose names and characters were happily
destined to survive that impact, and to triumph over the oblivion of

So long as the native population remained hostile and unconquered by
kindness or force, it was impossible to work securely at the development
of the colony; and Columbus, however regretfully, had come to feel that
circumstances more or less obliged him to use force.  At first he did not
quite realise the gravity of the position, and attempted to conquer or
reconcile the natives in little groups.  Guarionex, the cacique of the
Vega Real, was by gifts and smooth words soothed back into a friendship
which was consolidated by the marriage of his daughter with Columbus’s
native interpreter.  It was useless, how ever, to try and make friends
with Caonabo, that fierce irreconcilable; and it was felt that only by
stratagem could he be secured.  No sooner was this suggested than Ojeda
volunteered for the service.  Amid the somewhat slow-moving figures of
our story this man appears as lively as a flea; and he dances across our
pages in a sensation of intrepid feats of arms that make his great
popularity among the Spaniards easily credible to us.  He did not know
what fear was; he was always ready for a fight of any kind; a quarrel in
the streets of Madrid, a duel, a fight with a man or a wild beast,
a brawl in a tavern or a military expedition, were all the same to him,
if only they gave him an opportunity for fighting.  He had a little
picture of the Virgin hung round his neck, by which he swore, and to
which he prayed; he had never been so much as scratched in all his
affrays, and he believed that he led a charmed life.  Who would go out
against Caonabo, the Goliath of the island?  He, little David Ojeda, he
would go out and undertake to fetch the giant back with him; and all he
wanted was ten men, a pair of handcuffs, a handful of trinkets, horses
for the whole of his company, and his little image or picture of the

Columbus may have smiled at this proposal, but he knew his man; and Ojeda
duly departed with his horses and his ten men.  Plunging into the forest,
he made his way through sixty leagues of dense undergrowth until he
arrived in the very heart of Caonabo’s territory and presented himself at
the chiefs house.  The chief was at home, and, not unimpressed by the
valour of Ojeda, who represented himself as coming on a friendly mission,
received him under conditions of truce.  He had an eye for military
prowess, this Caonabo, and something of the lion’s heart in him; he
recognised in Ojeda the little man who kept him so long at bay outside
Fort St. Thomas; and, after the manner of lion-hearted people, liked him
none the worse for that.

Ojeda proposes that the King should accompany him to Isabella to make
peace.  No, says Caonabo.  Then Ojeda tries another way.  There is a
poetical side to this big fighting savage, and often in more friendly
days, when the bell in the little chapel of Isabella has been ringing for
Vespers, the cacique has been observed sitting alone on some hill
listening, enchanted by the strange silver voice that floated to him
across the sunset.  The bell has indeed become something of a personality
in the island: all the neighbouring savages listen to its voice with awe
and fascination, pausing with inclined heads whenever it begins to speak
from its turret.

Ojeda talks to Caonabo about the bell, and tells him what a wonderful
thing it is; tells him also that if he will come with him to Isabella he
shall have the bell for a present.  Poetry and public policy struggle
together in Caonabo’s heart, but poetry wins; the great powerful savage,
urged thereto by his childish lion-heart, will come to Isabella if they
will give him the bell.  He sets forth, accompanied by a native retinue,
and by Ojeda and his ten horsemen.  Presently they come to a river and
Ojeda produces his bright manacles; tells the King that they are royal
ornaments and that he has been instructed to bestow them upon Caonabo as
a sign of honour.  But first he must come alone to the river and bathe,
which he does.  Then he must sit with Ojeda upon his horse; which he
does.  Then he must have fitted on to him the shining silver trinkets;
which he does, the great grinning giant, pleased with his toys.  Then, to
show him what it is like to be on a horse, Ojeda canters gently round in
widening and ever widening circles; a turn of his spurred heels, and the
canter becomes a gallop, the circle becomes a straight line, and Caonabo
is on the road to Isabella.  When they are well beyond reach of the
natives they pause and tie Caonabo securely into his place; and by this
treachery bring him into Isabella, where he is imprisoned in the
Admiral’s house.

The sulky giant, brought thus into captivity, refuses to bend his proud,
stubborn heart into even a form of submission.  He takes no notice of
Columbus, and pays him no honour, although honour is paid to himself as
a captive king.  He sits there behind his bars gnawing his fingers,
listening to the voice of the bell that has lured him into captivity,
and thinking of the free open life which he is to know no more.  Though
he will pay no deference to the Admiral, will not even rise when he
enters his presence, there is one person he holds in honour, and that is
Ojeda.  He will not rise when the Admiral comes; but when Ojeda comes,
small as he is, and without external state, the chief makes his obeisance
to him.  The Admiral he sets at defiance, and boasts of his destruction
of La Navidad, and of his plan to destroy Isabella; Ojeda he respects and
holds in honour, as being the only man in the island brave enough to come
into his house and carry him off a captive.  There is a good deal of the
sportsman in Caonabo.

The immediate result of the capture of Caonabo was to rouse the islanders
to further hostilities, and one of the brothers of the captive king led a
force of seven thousand men to the vicinity of St. Thomas, to which
Ojeda, however, had in the meantime returned.  His small force was
augmented by some men despatched by Bartholomew Columbus on receipt of an
urgent message; and in command of this force Ojeda sallied forth against
the natives and attacked them furiously on horse and on foot, killing a
great part of them, taking others prisoner, and putting the rest to
flight.  This was the beginning of the end of the island resistance.  A
month or two later, when Columbus was better, he and Bartholomew together
mustered the whole of their available army and marched out in search of
the native force, which he knew had been rallied and greatly augmented.

The two forces met near the present town of Santiago, in the plain known
as the Savanna of Matanza.  The Spanish force was divided into three main
divisions, under the command of Christopher and Bartholomew Columbus and
Ojeda respectively.  These three divisions attacked the Indians
simultaneously from different points, Ojeda throwing his cavalry upon
them, riding them down, and cutting them to pieces.  Drums were beaten
and trumpets blown; the guns were fired from the cover of the trees; and
a pack of bloodhounds, which had been sent out from Spain with
Bartholomew, were let loose upon the natives and tore their bodies to
pieces.  It was an easy and horrible victory.  The native force was
estimated by Columbus at one hundred thousand men, although we shall
probably be nearer the mark if we reduce that estimate by one half.

The powers of hell were let loose that day into the Earthly Paradise.
The guns mowed red lines of blood through the solid ranks of the natives;
the great Spanish horses trod upon and crushed their writhing bodies, in
which arrows and lances continually stuck and quivered; and the ferocious
dogs, barking and growling, seized the naked Indians by the throat,
dragged them to the ground, and tore out their very entrails .  .  .  .
Well for us that the horrible noises of that day are silent now; well for
the world that that place of bloodshed and horror has grown green again;
better for us and for the world if those cries had never been heard, and
that quiet place had never received a stain that centuries of green
succeeding springtides can never wash away.

It was some time before this final battle that the convalescence of the
Admiral was further assisted by the arrival of four ships commanded by
Antonio Torres, who must have passed, out of sight and somewhere on the
high seas, the ships bearing Buil and Margarite back to Spain.  He
brought with him a large supply of fresh provisions for the colony, and a
number of genuine colonists, such as fishermen, carpenters, farmers,
mechanics, and millers.  And better still he brought a letter from the
Sovereigns, dated the 16th of August 1494, which did much to cheer the
shaken spirits of Columbus.  The words with which he had freighted his
empty ships had not been in vain; and in this reply to them he was warmly
commended for his diligence, and reminded that he enjoyed the unshaken
confidence of the Sovereigns.  They proposed that a caravel should sail
every month from Spain and from Isabella, bearing intelligence of the
colony and also, it was hoped, some of its products.  In a general letter
addressed to the colony the settlers were reminded of the obedience they
owed to the Admiral, and were instructed to obey him in all things under
the penalty of heavy fines.  They invited Columbus to come back if he
could in order to be present at the convention which was to establish the
line of demarcation between Spanish and Portuguese possessions; or if he
could not come himself to send his brother Bartholomew.  There were
reasons, however, which made this difficult.  Columbus wished to despatch
the ships back again as speedily as possible, in order that news of him
might help to counteract the evil rumours that he knew Buil and Margarite
would be spreading.  He himself was as yet (February 1494) too ill to
travel; and during his illness Bartholomew could not easily be spared.
It was therefore decided to send home James, who could most easily be
spared, and whose testimony as a member of the governing body during the
absence of the Admiral on his voyage to Cuba might be relied upon to
counteract the jealous accusations of Margarite and Buil.

Unfortunately there was no golden cargo to send back with him.  As much
gold as possible was scraped together, but it was very little.  The usual
assortment of samples of various island products was also sent; but still
the vessels were practically empty.  Columbus must have been painfully
conscious that the time for sending samples had more than expired, and
that the people in Spain might reasonably expect some of the actual
riches of which there had been so many specimens and promises.  In
something approaching desperation, he decided to fill the empty holds of
the ships with something which, if it was not actual money, could at
least be made to realise money.  From their sunny dreaming life on the
island five hundred natives were taken and lodged in the dark holds of
the caravels, to be sent to Spain and sold there for what they would
fetch.  Of course they were to be “freed” and converted to Christianity
in the process; that was always part of the programme, but it did not
interfere with business.  They were not man-eating Caribs or fierce
marauding savages from neighbouring islands, but were of the mild and
peaceable race that peopled Espanola.  The wheels of civilisation were
beginning to turn in the New World.

After the capture of Caonabo and the massacre of April 25th Columbus
marched through the island, receiving the surrender and submission of the
terrified natives.  At the approach of his force the caciques came out
and sued for peace; and if here and there there was a momentary
resistance, a charge of cavalry soon put an end to it.  One by one the
kings surrendered and laid down their arms, until all the island rulers
had capitulated with the exception of Behechio, into whose territory
Columbus did not march, and who sullenly retired to the south-western
corner of the island.  The terms of peace were harsh enough, and were
suggested by the dilemma of Columbus in his frantic desire to get
together some gold at any cost.  A tribute of gold-dust was laid upon
every adult native in the island.  Every three months a hawk’s bell full
of gold was to be brought to the treasury at Isabella, and in the case 39
of caciques the measure was a calabash.  A receipt in the form of a brass
medal was fastened to the neck of every Indian when he paid his tribute,
and those who could not show the medal with the necessary number of marks
were to be further fined and punished.  In the districts where there was
no gold, 25 lbs. of cotton was accepted instead.

This levy was made in ignorance of the real conditions under which the
natives possessed themselves of the gold.  What they had in many cases
represented the store of years, and in all but one or two favoured
districts it was quite impossible for them to keep up the amount of the
tribute.  Yet the hawks’ bells, which once had been so eagerly coveted
and were now becoming hated symbols of oppression, had to be filled
somehow; and as the day of payment drew near the wretched natives, who
had formerly only sought for gold when a little of it was wanted for a
pretty ornament, had now to work with frantic energy in the river sands;
or in other cases, to toil through the heat of the day in the cotton
fields which they had formerly only cultivated enough to furnish their
very scant requirements of use and adornment.  One or two caciques,
knowing that their people could not possibly furnish the required amount
of gold, begged that its value in grain might be accepted instead; but
that was not the kind of wealth that Columbus was seeking.  It must be
gold or nothing; and rather than receive any other article from the
gold-bearing districts, he consented to take half the amount.

Thus step by step, and under the banner of the Holy Catholic religion,
did dark and cruel misery march through the groves and glades of the
island and banish for ever its ancient peace.  This long-vanished race
that was native to the island of Espanola seems to have had some of the
happiest and most lovable qualities known to dwellers on this planet.
They had none of the brutalities of the African, the paralysing wisdom of
the Asian, nor the tragic potentialities of the European peoples.  Their
life was from day to day, and from season to season, like the life of
flowers and birds.  They lived in such order and peaceable community as
the common sense of their own simple needs suggested; they craved no
pleasures except those that came free from nature, and sought no wealth
but what the sun gave them.  In their verdant island, near to the heart
and source of light, surrounded by the murmur of the sea, and so enriched
by nature that the idea, of any other kind of riches never occurred to
them, their existence went to a happy dancing measure like that of the
fauns and nymphs in whose charmed existence they believed.  The sun and
moon were to them creatures of their island who had escaped from a cavern
by the shore and now wandered free in the upper air, peopling it with
happy stars; and man himself they believed to have sprung from crevices
in the rocks, like the plants that grew tall and beautiful wherever there
was a handful of soil for their roots.  Poor happy children!  You are all
dead a long while ago now, and have long been hushed in the great humming
sleep and silence of Time; the modern world has no time nor room for
people like you, with so much kindness and so little ambition .  .  .  .
Yet their free pagan souls were given a chance to be penned within the
Christian fold; the priest accompanied the gunner and the bloodhound, the
missionary walked beside the slave-driver; and upon the bewildered
sun-bright surface of their minds the shadow of the cross was for a moment
thrown.  Verily to them the professors of Christ brought not peace, but a



While Columbus was toiling under the tropical sun to make good his
promises to the Crown, Margarite and Buil, having safely come home to
Spain from across the seas, were busy setting forth their view of the
value of his discoveries.  It was a view entirely different from any that
Ferdinand and Isabella had heard before, and coming as it did from two
men of position and importance who had actually been in Espanola, and
were loyal and religious subjects of the Crown, it could not fail to
receive, if not immediate and complete credence, at any rate grave
attention.  Hitherto the Sovereigns had only heard one side of the
matter; an occasional jealous voice may have been raised from the
neighbourhood of the Pinzons or some one else not entirely satisfied with
his own position in the affair; but such small cries of dissent had
naturally had little chance against the dignified eloquence of the

Now, however, the matter was different.  People who were at least the
equals of Columbus in intelligence, and his superiors by birth and
education, had seen with their own eyes the things of which he had
spoken, and their account differed widely from his.  They represented
things in Espanola as being in a very bad way indeed, which was true
enough; drew a dismal picture of an overcrowded colony ravaged with
disease and suffering from lack of provisions; and held forth at length
upon the very doubtful quality of the gold with which the New World was
supposed to abound.  More than this, they brought grave charges against
Columbus himself, representing him as unfit to govern a colony, given to
favouritism, and, worst of all, guilty of having deliberately
misrepresented for his own ends the resources of the colony.  This as we
know was not true.  It was not for his own ends, or for any ends at all
within the comprehension of men like Margarite and Buil, that poor
Christopher had spoken so glowingly out of a heart full of faith in what
he had seen and done.  Purposes, dim perhaps, but far greater and loftier
than any of which these two mean souls had understanding, animated him
alike in his discoveries and in his account of them; although that does
not alter the unpleasant fact that at the stage matters had now reached
it seemed as though there might have been serious misrepresentation.

Ferdinand and Isabella, thus confronted with a rather difficult
situation, acted with great wisdom and good sense.  How much or how
little they believed we do not know, but it was obviously their duty,
having heard such an account from responsible officers, to investigate
matters for themselves without assuming either that the report was true
or untrue.  They immediately had four caravels furnished with supplies,
and decided to appoint an agent to accompany the expedition, investigate
the affairs of the colony, and make a report to them.  If the Admiral was
still absent when their agent reached the colony he was to be entrusted
with the distribution of the supplies which were being sent out; for
Columbus’s long absence from Espanola had given rise to some fears for
his safety.

The Sovereigns had just come to this decision (April 1495) when a letter
arrived from the Admiral himself, announcing his return to Espanola after
discovering the veritable mainland of Asia, as the notarial document
enclosed with the letter attested.  Torres and James Columbus had arrived
in Spain, bearing the memorandum which some time ago we saw the Admiral
writing; and they were able to do something towards allaying the fears of
the Sovereigns as to the condition of the colony.  The King and Queen,
nevertheless, wisely decided to carry out their original intention, and
in appointing an agent they very handsomely chose one of the men whom
Columbus had recommended to them in his letter--Juan Aguado.  This action
shows a friendliness to Columbus and confidence in him that lead one to
suspect that the tales of Margarite and Buil had been taken with a grain
of salt.

At the same time the Sovereigns made one or two orders which could not
but be unwelcome to Columbus.  A decree was issued making it lawful for
all native-born Spaniards to make voyages of discovery, and to settle in
Espanola itself if they liked.  This was an infringement of the original
privileges granted to the Admiral--privileges which were really absurd,
and which can only have been granted in complete disbelief that anything
much would come of his discovery.  It took Columbus two years to get this
order modified, and in the meantime a great many Spanish adventurers, our
old friends the Pinzons among them, did actually make voyages and added
to the area explored by the Spaniards in Columbus’s lifetime.  Columbus
was bitterly jealous that any one should be admitted to the western
ocean, which he regarded as his special preserve, except under his
supreme authority; and he is reported to have said that once the way to
the West had been pointed out “even the very tailors turned explorers.”
There, surely, spoke the long dormant woolweaver in him.

The commission given to Aguado was very brief, and so vaguely worded
that it might mean much or little, according to the discretion of the
commissioner and the necessities of the case as viewed by him.  “We send
to you Juan Aguada, our Groom of the Chambers, who will speak to you on
our part.  We command you to give him faith and credit.”  A letter was
also sent to Columbus in which he was instructed to reduce the number of
people dependent on the colony to five hundred instead of a thousand; and
the control of the mines was entrusted to one Pablo Belvis, who was sent
out as chief metallurgist.  As for the slaves that Columbus had sent
home, Isabella forbade their sale until inquiry could be made into the
condition of their capture, and the fine moral point involved was
entrusted to the ecclesiastical authorities for examination and solution.
Poor Christopher, knowing as he did that five hundred heretics were being
burned every year by the Grand Inquisitor, had not expected this
hair-splitting over the fate of heathens who had rebelled against Spanish
authority; and it caused him some distress when he heard of it.  The
theologians, however, proved equal to the occasion, and the slaves were
duly sold in Seville market.

Aguado sailed from Cadiz at the end of August 1495, and reached Espanola
in October.  James Columbus (who does not as yet seem to be in very great
demand anywhere, and who doubtless conceals behind his grave visage much
honest amazement at the amount of life that he is seeing) returned with
him.  Aguado, on arriving at Isabella, found that Columbus was absent
establishing forts in the interior of the island, Bartholomew being left
in charge at Isabella.

Aguado, who had apparently been found faithful in small matters, was
found wanting in his use of the authority that had been entrusted to him.
It seems to have turned his head; for instead of beginning quietly to
investigate the affairs of the colony as he had been commanded to do he
took over from Bartholomew the actual government, and interpreted his
commission as giving him the right to supersede the Admiral himself.  The
unhappy colony, which had no doubt been enjoying some brief period of
peace under the wise direction of Bartholomew, was again thrown into
confusion by the doings of Aguado.  He arrested this person, imprisoned
that; ordered that things should be done this way, which had formerly
been done that way; and if they had formerly been done that way, then he
ordered that they should be done this way--in short he committed every
mistake possible for a man in his situation armed with a little brief
authority.  He did not hesitate to let it be known that he was there to
examine the conduct of the Admiral himself; and we may be quite sure that
every one in the colony who had a grievance or an ill tale to carry,
carried it to Aguado.  His whole attitude was one of enmity and
disloyalty to the Admiral who had so handsomely recommended him to the
notice of the Sovereigns; and so undisguised was his attitude that even
the Indians began to lodge their complaints and to see a chance by which
they might escape from the intolerable burden of the gold tribute.

It was at this point that Columbus returned and found Aguado ruling in
the place of Bartholomew, who had wisely made no protest against his own
deposition, but was quietly waiting for the Admiral to return.  Columbus
might surely have been forgiven if he had betrayed extreme anger and
annoyance at the doings of Aguado; and it is entirely to his credit that
he concealed such natural wrath as he may have felt, and greeted Aguado
with extreme courtesy and ceremony as a representative of the Sovereigns.
He made no protest, but decided to return himself to Spain and confront
the jealousy and ill-fame that were accumulating against him.

Just as the ships were all ready to sail, one of the hurricanes which
occur periodically in the West Indies burst upon the island, lashing the
sea into a wall of advancing foam that destroyed everything before it.
Among other things it destroyed three out of the four ships, dashing them
on the beach and reducing them to complete wreckage.  The only one that
held to her anchor and, although much battered and damaged, rode out the
gale, was the Nina, that staunch little friend that had remained faithful
to the Admiral through so many dangers and trials.  There was nothing for
it but to build a new ship out of the fragments of the wrecks, and to
make the journey home with two ships instead of with four.

At this moment, while he was waiting for the ship to be completed,
Columbus heard a piece of news of a kind that never failed to rouse his
interest.  There was a young Spaniard named Miguel Diaz who had got into
disgrace in Isabella some time before on account of a duel, and had
wandered into the island until he had come out on the south coast at the
mouth of the river Ozama, near the site of the present town of Santo
Domingo.  There he had fallen in love with a female cacique and had made
his home with her.  She, knowing the Spanish taste, and anxious to please
her lover and to retain him in her territory, told him of some rich
gold-mines that there were in the neighbourhood, and suggested that he
should inform the Admiral, who would perhaps remove the settlement from
Isabella to the south coast.  She provided him with guides and sent him
off to Isabella, where, hearing that his antagonist had recovered, and
that he himself was therefore in no danger of punishment, he presented
himself with his story.

Columbus immediately despatched Bartholomew with a party to examine the
mines; and sure enough they found in the river Hayna undoubted evidence
of a wealth far in excess of that contained in the Cibao gold-mines.
Moreover, they had noticed two ancient excavations about which the
natives could tell them nothing, but which made them think that the mines
had once been worked.

Columbus was never backward in fitting a story and a theory to whatever
phenomena surrounded him; and in this case he was certain that the
excavations were the work of Solomon, and that he had discovered the gold
of Ophir.  “Sure enough,” thinks the Admiral, “I have hit it this time;
and the ships came eastward from the Persian Gulf round the Golden
Chersonesus, which I discovered this very last winter.”  Immediately, as
his habit was, Columbus began to build castles in Spain.  Here was a fine
answer to Buil and Margarite!  Without waiting a week or two to get any
of the gold this extraordinary man decided to hurry off at once to Spain
with the news, not dreaming that Spain might, by this time, have had a
surfeit of news, and might be in serious need of some simple, honest
facts.  But he thought his two caravels sufficiently freighted with this
new belief--the belief that he had discovered the Ophir of Solomon.

The Admiral sailed on March 10th, 1496, carrying with him in chains the
vanquished Caonabo and other natives.  He touched at Marigalante and at
Guadaloupe, where his people had an engagement with the natives, taking
several prisoners, but releasing them all again with the exception of one
woman, a handsome creature who had fallen in love with Caonabo and
refused to go.  But for Caonabo the joys of life and love were at an end;
his heart and spirit were broken.  He was not destined to be paraded as a
captive through the streets of Spain, and it was somewhere in the deep
Atlantic that he paid the last tribute to the power that had captured and
broken him.  He died on the voyage, which was longer and much more full
of hardships than usual.  For some reason or other Columbus did not take
the northerly route going home, but sailed east from Gaudaloupe,
encountering the easterly trade winds, which delayed him so much that the
voyage occupied three months instead of six weeks.

Once more he exhibited his easy mastery of the art of navigation and his
extraordinary gift for estimating dead-reckoning.  After having been out
of sight of land for eight weeks, and while some of the sailors thought
they might be in the Bay of Biscay, and others that they were in the
English Channel, the Admiral suddenly announced that they were close to
Cape Saint Vincent.

No land was in sight, but he ordered that sail should be shortened that
evening; and sure enough the next morning they sighted the land close by
Cape Saint Vincent.  Columbus managed his landfalls with a fine dramatic
sense as though they were conjuring tricks; and indeed they must have
seemed like conjuring tricks, except that they were almost always



The loiterers about the harbour of Cadiz saw a curious sight on June
11th, 1496, when the two battered ships, bearing back the voyagers from
the Eldorado of the West, disembarked their passengers.  There were some
220 souls on board, including thirty Indians: and instead of leaping
ashore, flushed with health, and bringing the fortunes which they had
gone out to seek, they crawled miserably from the boats or were carried
ashore, emaciated by starvation, yellow with disease, ragged and unkempt
from poverty, and with practically no possessions other than the clothes
they stood up in.  Even the Admiral, now in his forty-sixth year, hardly
had the appearance that one would expect in a Viceroy of the Indies.  His
white hair and beard were rough and matted, his handsome face furrowed by
care and sunken by illness and exhaustion, and instead of the glittering
armour and uniform of his office he wore the plain robe and girdle of the
Franciscan order--this last probably in consequence of some vow or other
he had made in an hour of peril on the voyage.

One lucky coincidence marked his arrival.  In the harbour, preparing to
weigh anchor, was a fleet of three little caravels, commanded by Pedro
Nino, about to set out for Espanola with supplies and despatches.
Columbus hurried on board Nino’s ship, and there read the letters from
the Sovereigns which it had been designed he should receive in Espanola.
The letters are not preserved, but one can make a fair guess at their
contents.  Some searching questions would certainly be asked, kind
assurances of continued confidence would doubtless be given, with many
suggestions for the betterment of affairs in the distant colony.  Only
their result upon the Admiral is known to us.  He sat down there and then
and wrote to Bartholomew, urging him to secure peace in the island by
every means in his power, to send home any caciques or natives who were
likely to give trouble, and most of all to push on with the building of a
settlement on the south coast where the new mines were, and to have a
cargo of gold ready to send back with the next expedition.  Having
written this letter, the Admiral saw the little fleet sail away on June
17th, and himself prepared with mingled feelings to present himself
before his Sovereigns.

While he was waiting for their summons at Los Palacios, a small town near
Seville, he was the guest of the curate of that place, Andrez Bernaldez,
who had been chaplain to Christopher’s old friend DEA, the Archbishop of
Seville.  This good priest evidently proved a staunch friend to Columbus
at this anxious period of his life, for the Admiral left many important
papers in his charge when he again left Spain, and no small part of the
scant contemporary information about Columbus that has come down to us is
contained in the ‘Historia de los Reyes Catolicos’, which Bernaldez wrote
after the death of Columbus.

Fickle Spain had already forgotten its first sentimental enthusiasm over
the Admiral’s discoveries, and now was only interested in their financial
results.  People cannot be continually excited about a thing which they
have not seen, and there were events much nearer home that absorbed the
public interest.  There was the trouble with France, the contemplated
alliance of the Crown Prince with Margaret of Austria, and of the Spanish
Princess Juana with Philip of Austria; and there were the designs of
Ferdinand upon the kingdom of Naples, which was in his eyes a much more
desirable and valuable prize than any group of unknown islands beyond the

Columbus did his very best to work up enthusiasm again.  He repeated the
performance that had been such a success after his first voyage--the kind
of circus procession in which the natives were marched in column
surrounded by specimens of the wealth of the Indies.  But somehow it did
not work so well this time.  Where there had formerly been acclamations
and crowds pressing forward to view the savages and their ornaments,
there were now apathy and a dearth of spectators.  And although Columbus
did his very best, and was careful to exhibit every scrap of gold that he
had brought, and to hang golden collars and ornaments about the necks of
the marching Indians, his exhibition was received either in ominous
silence or, in some quarters, with something like derision.  As I have
said before, there comes a time when the best-disposed debtors do not
regard themselves as being repaid by promises, and when the most
enthusiastic optimist desires to see something more than samples.
It was only old Colon going round with his show again--flamingoes,
macaws, seashells, dye-woods, gums and spices; some people laughed,
and some were angry; but all were united in thinking that the New World
was not a very profitable speculation.

Things were a little better, however, at Court.  Isabella certainly
believed still in Columbus; Ferdinand, although he had never been
enthusiastic, knew the Admiral too well to make the vulgar mistake of
believing him an impostor; and both were too polite and considerate to
add to his obvious mortification and distress by any discouraging
comments.  Moreover, the man himself had lost neither his belief in the
value of his discoveries nor his eloquence in talking of them; and when
he told his story to the Sovereigns they could not help being impressed,
not only with his sincerity but with his ability and single-heartedness
also.  It was almost the same old story, of illimitable wealth that was
just about to be acquired, and perhaps no one but Columbus could have
made it go down once more with success; but talking about his exploits
was never any trouble to him, and his astonishing conviction, the lofty
and dignified manner in which he described both good and bad fortune, and
the impressive way in which he spoke of the wealth of the gold of Ophir
and of the far-reaching importance of his supposed discovery of the
Golden Chersonesus and the mainland of Asia, had their due effect on his

It was always his way, plausible Christopher, to pass lightly over the
premises and to dwell with elaborate detail on the deductions.  It was by
no means proved that he had discovered the mines of King Solomon; he had
never even seen the place which he identified with them; it was in fact
nothing more than an idea in his own head; but we may be sure that he
took it as an established fact that he had actually discovered the mines
of Ophir, and confined his discussion to estimates of the wealth which
they were likely to yield, and of what was to be done with the wealth
when the mere details of conveying it from the mines to the ships had
been disposed of.  So also with the Golden Chersonesus.  The very name
was enough to stop the mouths of doubters; and here was the man himself
who had actually been there, and here was a sworn affidavit from every
member of his crew to say that they had been there too.  This kind of
logic is irresistible if you only grant the first little step; and
Columbus had the art of making it seem an act of imbecility in any of his
hearers to doubt the strength of the little link by which his great
golden chains of argument were fastened to fact and truth.

For Columbus everything depended upon his reception by the Sovereigns at
this time.  Unless he could re-establish his hold upon them and move to a
still more secure position in their confidence he was a ruined man and
his career was finished; and one cannot but sympathise with him as he
sits there searching his mind for tempting and convincing arguments, and
speaking so calmly and gravely and confidently in spite of all the doubts
and flutterings in his heart.  Like a tradesman setting out his wares,
he brought forth every inducement he could think of to convince the
Sovereigns that the only way to make a success of what they had already
done was to do more; that the only way to make profitable the money that
had already been spent was to spend more; that the only way to prove the
wisdom of their trust in him was to trust him more.  One of his
transcendent merits in a situation of this kind was that he always had
something new and interesting to propose.  He did not spread out his
hands and say, “This is what I have done: it is the best I can do; how
are you going to treat me?”  He said in effect, “This is what I have
done; you will see that it will all come right in time; do not worry
about it; but meanwhile I have something else to propose which I think
your Majesties will consider a good plan.”

His new demand was for a fleet of six ships, two of which were to convey
supplies to Espanola, and the other four to be entrusted to him for the
purpose of a voyage of discovery towards the mainland to the south of
Espanola, of which he had heard consistent rumours; which was said to be
rich in gold, and (a clever touch) to which the King of Portugal was
thinking of sending a fleet, as he thought that it might lie within the
limits of his domain of heathendom.  And so well did he manage, and so
deeply did he impress the Sovereigns with his assurance that this time
the thing amounted to what is vulgarly called “a dead certainty,” that
they promised him he should have his ships.

But promise and performance, as no one knew better than Columbus, are
different things; and it was a long while before he got his ships.  There
was the usual scarcity of money, and the extensive military and
diplomatic operations in which the Crown was then engaged absorbed every
maravedi that Ferdinand could lay his hands on.  There was an army to be
maintained under the Pyrenees to keep watch over France; fleets had to be
kept patrolling both the Mediterranean and Atlantic seaboards; and there
was a whole armada required to convey the princesses of Spain and Austria
to their respective husbands in connection with the double matrimonial
alliance arranged between the two countries.  And when at last, in
October 1496, six million maravedis were provided wherewith Columbus
might equip his fleet, they were withdrawn again under very mortifying
circumstances.  The appropriation had just been made when a letter
arrived from Pedro Nino, who had been to Espanola and come back again,
and now wrote from Cadiz to the Sovereigns, saying that his ships were
full of gold.  He did not present himself at Court, but went to visit his
family at Huelva; but the good news of his letter was accepted as an
excuse for this oversight.

No one was better pleased than the Admiral.  “What did I tell you?”  he
says; “you see the mines of Hayna are paying already.”  King Ferdinand,
equally pleased, and having an urgent need of money in connection with
his operations against France, took the opportunity to cancel the
appropriation of the six million maravedis, giving Columbus instead an
order for the amount to be paid out of the treasure brought home by Nino.
Alas, the mariner’s boast of gold had been a figure of speech.  There was
no gold; there was only a cargo of slaves, which Nino deemed the
equivalent of gold; and when Bartholomew’s despatches came to be read he
described the affairs of Espanola as being in very much the same
condition as before.  This incident produced a most unfortunate
impression.  Even Columbus was obliged to keep quiet for a little while;
and it is likely that the mention of six million maravedis was not
welcomed by him for some time afterwards.

After the wedding of Prince Juan in March 1497, when Queen Isabella had
more time to give to external affairs, the promise to Columbus was again
remembered, and his position was considered in detail.  An order was made
(April 23rd, 1497), restoring to the Admiral the original privileges
bestowed upon him at Santa Fe.  He was offered a large tract of land in
Espanola, with the title of Duke; but much as he hankered after titular
honours, he was for once prudent enough to refuse this gift.  His reason
was that it would only further damage his influence, and give apparent
justification to those enemies who said that the whole enterprise had
been undertaken merely in his own interests; and it is possible also that
his many painful associations with Espanola, and the bloodshed and
horrors that he had witnessed there, had aroused in his superstitious
mind a distaste for possessions and titles in that devastated Paradise.
Instead, he accepted a measure of relief from the obligations incurred by
his eighth share in the many unprofitable expeditions that had been sent
out during the last three years, agreeing for the next three years to
receive an eighth share of the gross income, and a tenth of the net
profits, without contributing anything to the cost.  His appointment of
Bartholomew to the office of Adelantado, which had annoyed Ferdinand, was
now confirmed; the universal license which had been granted to Spanish
subjects to settle in the new lands was revoked in so far as it infringed
the Admiral’s privileges; and he was granted a force of 330 officers,
soldiers, and artificers to be at his personal disposal in the
prosecution of his next voyage.

The death of Prince Juan in October 1497 once more distracted the
attention of the Court from all but personal matters; and Columbus
employed the time of waiting in drafting a testamentary document in which
he was permitted to create an entail on his title and estates in favour
of his two sons and their heirs for ever.  This did not represent his
complete or final testament, for he added codicils at various times,
the latest being executed the day before his death.  The document is
worth studying; it reveals something of the laborious, painstaking mind
reaching out down the rivers and streams of the future that were to flow
from the fountain of his own greatness; it reveals also his triple
conception of the obligations of human life in this world--the
cultivation and retention of temporal dignity, the performance of pious
and charitable acts, and the recognition of duty to one’s family.  It was
in this document that Columbus formulated the curious cipher which he
always now used in signing his name, and of which various readings are
given in the Appendix.  He also enjoined upon his heir the duty of using
the simple title which he himself loved and used most--“The Admiral.”

After the death of Prince Juan, Queen Isabella honoured Columbus by
attaching his two sons to her own person as pages; and her friendship
must at this time have gone far to compensate him for the coolness shown
towards him by the public at large.  He might talk as much as he pleased,
but he had nothing to show for all his talk except a few trinkets, a
collection of interesting but valueless botanical specimens, and a
handful of miserable slaves.  Lives and fortunes had been wrecked on the
enterprise, which had so far brought nothing to Spain but the promise of
luxurious adventure that was not fulfilled and of a wealth and glory that
had not been realised.  It must have been a very humiliating circumstance
to Columbus that in the preparations which he was now (February 1498)
making for the equipment of his new expedition a great difficulty was
found in procuring ships and men.  Not even before the first voyage had
so much reluctance been shown to risk life and property in the
enterprise.  Merchants and sailors had then been frightened of dangers
which they did not know; now, it seemed, the evils of which they did know
proved a still greater deterrent.  The Admiral was at this time the guest
of his friend Bernaldez, who has told us something of his difficulties;
and the humiliating expedient of seizing ships under a royal order had
finally to be adopted.  But it would never have done to impress the
colonists also; that would have been too open a confession of failure for
the proud Admiral to tolerate.

Instead he had recourse to the miserable plan of which he had made use in
Palos; the prisons were opened, and criminals under sentence invited to
come forth and enjoy the blessings of colonial life.  Even then there was
not that rush from the prison doors that might have been expected, and
some desperate characters apparently preferred the mercies of a Spanish
prison to what they had heard of the joys of the Earthly Paradise.  Still
a number of criminals did doubtfully crawl forth and furnish a retinue
for the great Admiral and Viceroy.  Trembling, suspicious, and with more
than half a mind to go back to their bonds, some part of the human vermin
of Spain was eventually cajoled and chivied on board the ships.

The needs of the colony being urgent, and recruiting being slow, two
caravels laden with provisions were sent off in advance; but even for
this purpose there was a difficulty about money, and good Isabella
furnished the expense, at much inconvenience, from her private purse.

Columbus had to supervise everything himself; and no wonder that by the
end of May, when he was ready to sail, his patience and temper were
exhausted and his much-tried endurance broke down under the petty
gnatlike irritations of Fonseca and his myrmidons.  It was on the deck of
his own ship, in the harbour of San Lucar, that he knocked down and
soundly kicked Ximeno de Breviesca, Fonseca’s accountant, whose nagging
requisitions had driven the Admiral to fury.

After all these years of gravity and restraint and endurance, this
momentary outbreak of the old Adam in our hero is like a breath of wind
through an open window.

To the portraits of Columbus hanging in the gallery of one’s imagination
this must surely be added; in which Christopher, on the deck of his ship,
with the royal standard and the Admiral’s flag flying from his masthead,
is observed to be soundly kicking a prostrate accountant.  The incident
is worthy of a date, which is accordingly here given, as near as may be--
May 29, 1498.



Columbus was at sea again; firm ground to him, although so treacherous
and unstable to most of us; and as he saw the Spanish coast sinking down
on the horizon he could shake himself free from his troubles, and feel
that once more he was in a situation of which he was master.  He first
touched at Porto Santo, where, if the story of his residence there be
true, there must have been potent memories for him in the sight of the
long white beach and the plantations, with the Governor’s house beyond.
He stayed there only a few hours and then crossed over to Madeira,
anchoring in the Bay of Funchal, where he took in wood and water.  As it
was really unnecessary for him to make a port so soon after leaving,
there was probably some other reason for his visit to these islands;
perhaps a family reason; perhaps nothing more historically important than
the desire to look once more on scenes of bygone happiness, for even on
the page of history every event is not necessarily big with significance.
From Madeira he took a southerly course to the Canary Islands, and on
June 16th anchored at Gomera, where he found a French warship with two
Spanish prizes, all of which put to sea as the Admiral’s fleet
approached.  On June 21st, when he sailed from Gomera, he divided his
fleet of six vessels into two squadrons.  Three ships were despatched
direct to Espanola, for the supplies which they carried were urgently
needed there.  These three ships were commanded by trustworthy men: Pedro
de Arana, a brother of Beatriz, Alonso Sanchez de Carvajal, and Juan
Antonio Colombo--this last no other than a cousin of Christopher’s from
Genoa.  The sons of Domenico’s provident younger brother had not
prospered, while the sons of improvident Domenico were now all in high
places; and these three poor cousins, hearing of Christopher’s greatness,
and deciding that use should be made of him, scraped together enough
money to send one of their number to Spain.  The Admiral always had a
sound family feeling, and finding that cousin Antonio had sea experience
and knew how to handle a ship he gave him command of one of the caravels
on this voyage--a command of which he proved capable and worthy.  From
these three captains, after giving them full sailing directions for
reaching Espanola, Columbus parted company off the island of Ferro.  He
himself stood on a southerly course towards the Cape Verde Islands.

His plan on this voyage was to find the mainland to the southward, of
which he had heard rumours in Espanola.  Before leaving Spain he had
received a letter from an eminent lapidary named Ferrer who had travelled
much in the east, and who assured him that if he sought gold and precious
stones he must go to hot lands, and that the hotter the lands were, and
the blacker the inhabitants, the more likely he was to find riches there.
This was just the kind of theory to suit Columbus, and as he sailed
towards the Cape Verde Islands he was already in imagination gathering
gold and pearls on the shores of the equatorial continent.

He stayed for about a week at the Cape Verde Islands, getting in
provisions and cattle, and curiously observing the life of the Portuguese
lepers who came in numbers to the island of Buenavista to be cured there
by eating the flesh and bathing in the blood of turtles.  It was not an
inspiriting week which he spent in that dreary place and enervating
climate, with nothing to see but the goats feeding among the scrub, the
turtles crawling about the sand, and the lepers following the turtles.
It began to tell on the health of the crew, so he weighed anchor on July
5th and stood on a southwesterly course.

This third voyage, which was destined to be the most important of all,
and the material for which had cost him so much time and labour, was
undertaken in a very solemn and determined spirit.  His health, which he
had hoped to recover in Spain, had been if anything damaged by his
worryings with officialdom there; and although he was only forty-seven
years of age he was in some respects already an old man.  He had entered,
although happily he did not know it, on the last decade of his life; and
was already beginning to suffer from the two diseases, gout and
ophthalmia, which were soon to undermine his strength and endurance.
Religion of a mystical fifteenth-century sort was deepening in him;
he had undertaken this voyage in the name of the Holy Trinity; and to
that theological entity he had resolved to dedicate the first new land
that he should sight.

For ten days light baffling winds impeded his progress; but at the end of
that time the winds fell away altogether, and the voyagers found
themselves in that flat equatorial calm known to mariners as the
Doldrums.  The vertical rays of the sun shone blisteringly down upon
them, making the seams of the ships gape and causing the unhappy crews
mental as well as bodily distress, for they began to fear that they had
reached that zone of fire which had always been said to exist in the
southern ocean.

Day after day the three ships lay motionless on the glassy water, with
wood-work so hot as to burn the hands that touched it, with the meat
putrefying in the casks below, and the water running from the loosened
casks, and no one with courage and endurance enough to venture into the
stifling hold even to save the provisions.  And through all this the
Admiral, racked with gout, had to keep a cheerful face and assure his
prostrate crew that they would soon be out of it.

There were showers of rain sometimes, but the moisture in that baking
atmosphere only added to its stifling and enervating effects.  All the
while, however, the great slow current of the Atlantic was moving
westward, and there came a day when a heavenly breeze, stirred in the
torrid air and the musical talk of ripples began to rise again from the
weedy stems of the ships.  They sailed due west, always into a cooler and
fresher atmosphere; but still no land was sighted, although pelicans
and smaller birds were continually seen passing from south-west to
north-east.  As provisions were beginning to run low, Columbus decided
on the 31st July to alter his course to north-by-east, in the hope of
reaching the island of Dominica.  But at mid-day his servant Alonso
Perez, happening to go to the masthead, cried out that there was land in
sight; and sure enough to the westward there rose three peaks of land
united at the base.  Here was the kind of coincidence which staggers
even the unbeliever.  Columbus had promised to dedicate the first land
he saw to the Trinity; and here was the land, miraculously provided when
he needed it most, three peaks in one peak, in due conformity with the
requirements of the blessed Saint Athanasius.  The Admiral was deeply
affected; the God of his belief was indeed a good friend to him; and he
wrote down his pious conviction that the event was a miracle, and
summoned all hands to sing the Salve Regina, with other hymns in praise
of God and the Virgin Mary.  The island was duly christened La Trinidad.
By the hour of Compline (9 o’clock in the evening) they had come up with
the south coast of the island, but it was the next day before the
Admiral found a harbour where he could take in water.  No natives were
to be seen, although there were footprints on the shore and other signs
of human habitation.

He continued all day to sail slowly along the shore of the island, the
green luxuriance of which astonished him; and sometimes he stood out from
the coast to the southward as he made a long board to round this or that
point.  It must have been while reaching out in this way to the southward
that he saw a low shore on his port hand some sixty miles to the south of
Trinidad, and that his sight, although he did not know it, rested for the
first time on the mainland of South America.  The land seen was the low
coast to the west of the Orinoco, and thinking that it was an island he
gave it the name of Isla Sancta.

On the 2nd of August they were off the south-west of Trinidad, and saw
the first inhabitants in the shape of a canoe full of armed natives, who
approached the ships with threatening gestures.  Columbus had brought out
some musicians with him, possibly for the purpose of impressing the
natives, and perhaps with the idea of making things a little more
cheerful in Espanola; and the musicians were now duly called upon to give
a performance, a tambourine-player standing on the forecastle and beating
the rhythm for the ships’ boys to dance to.  The effect was other than
was anticipated, for the natives immediately discharged a thick flight of
arrows at the musicians, and the music and dancing abruptly ceased.
Eventually the Indians were prevailed upon to come on board the two
smaller ships and to receive gifts, after which they departed and were
seen no more.  Columbus landed and made some observations of the
vegetation and climate of Trinidad, noticing that the fruits and-trees
were similar to those of Espanola, and that oysters abounded, as well as
“very large, infinite fish, and parrots as large as hens.”

He saw another peak of the mainland to the northwest, which was the
peninsula of Paria, and to which Columbus, taking it to be another
island, gave the name of Isla de Gracia.  Between him and this land lay a
narrow channel through which a mighty current was flowing--that press of
waters which, sweeping across the Atlantic from Africa, enters the
Caribbean Sea, sprays round the Gulf of Mexico, and turns north again in
the current known as the Gulf Stream.  While his ships were anchored at
the entrance to this channel and Columbus was wondering how he should
cross it, a mighty flood of water suddenly came down with a roar, sending
a great surging wave in front of it.  The vessels were lifted up as
though by magic; two of them dragged their anchors from the bottom, and
the other one broke her cable.  This flood was probably caused by a
sudden flush of fresh water from one of the many mouths of the Orinoco;
but to Columbus, who had no thought of rivers in his mind, it was very
alarming.  Apparently, however, there was nothing for it but to get
through the channel, and having sent boats on in front to take soundings
and see that there was clear water he eventually piloted his little
squadron through, with his heart in his mouth and his eyes fixed on the
swinging eddies and surging circles of the channel.  Once beyond it he
was in the smooth water of the Gulf of Paria.  He followed the westerly
coast of Trinidad to the north until he came to a second channel narrower
than the first, through which the current boiled with still greater
violence, and to which he gave the name of Dragon’s Mouth.  This is the
channel between the northwesterly point of Trinidad and the eastern
promontory of Paria.  Columbus now began to be bewildered, for he
discovered that the water over the ship’s side was fresh water, and he
could not make out where it came from.  Thinking that the peninsula of
Paria was an island, and not wishing to attempt the dangerous passage of
the Dragon’s Mouth, he decided to coast along the southern shore of the
land opposite, hoping to be able to turn north round its western

Sweeter blew the breezes, fresher grew the water, milder and more balmy
the air, greener and deeper the vegetation of this beautiful region.  The
Admiral was ill with the gout, and suffering such pain from his eyes that
he was sometimes blinded by it; but the excitement of the strange
phenomena surrounding him kept him up, and his powers of observation,
always acute, suffered no diminution.  There were no inhabitants to be
seen as they sailed along the coast, but monkeys climbed and chattered in
the trees by the shore, and oysters were found clinging to the branches
that dipped into the water.  At last, in a bay where they anchored to
take in water, a native canoe containing three, men was seen cautiously
approaching; and the men, who were shy, were captured by the device of a
sailor jumping on to the gunwale of the canoe and overturning it, the
natives being easily caught in the water, and afterwards soothed and
captivated by the unfailing attraction of hawks’ bells.  They were tall
men with long hair, and they told Columbus that the name of their country
was Paria; and when they were asked about other inhabitants they pointed
to the west and signified that there was a great population in that

On the 10th of August 1498 a party landed on this coast and formally took
possession of it in the name of the Sovereigns of Spain.  By an unlucky
chance Columbus himself did not land.  His eyes were troubling him so
much that he was obliged to lie down in his cabin, and the formal act of
possession was performed by a deputy.  If he had only known!  If he could
but have guessed that this was indeed the mainland of a New World that
did not exist even in his dreams, what agonies he would have suffered
rather than permit any one else to pronounce the words of annexation!
But he lay there in pain and suffering, his curious mystical mind
occupied with a conception very remote indeed from the truth.

For in that fertile hotbed of imagination, the Admiral’s brain, a new and
staggering theory had gradually been taking shape.  As his ships had been
wafted into this delicious region, as the airs had become sweeter, the
vegetation more luxuriant, and the water of the sea fresher,--he had
solemnly arrived at the conclusion that he was approaching the region of
the true terrestrial Paradise: the Garden of Eden that some of the
Fathers had declared to be situated in the extreme east of the Old World,
and in a region so high that the flood had not overwhelmed it.  Columbus,
thinking hard in his cabin, blood and brain a little fevered, comes to
the conclusion that the world is not round but pear-shaped.  He knows
that all this fresh water in the sea must come from a great distance and
from no ordinary river; and he decides that its volume and direction have
been acquired in its fall from the apex of the pear, from the very top of
the world, from the Garden of Eden itself.  It was a most beautiful
conception; a theory worthy to be fitted to all the sweet sights and
sounds in the world about him; but it led him farther and farther away
from the truth, and blinded him to knowledge and understanding of what he
had actually accomplished.

He had thought the coast of Cuba the mainland, and he now began to
consider it at least possible that the peninsula of Paria was mainland
also--another part of the same continent.  That was the truth--Paria was
the mainland--and if he had not been so bemused by his dreams and
theories he might have had some inkling of the real wonder and
significance of his discovery.  But no; in his profoundly unscientific
mind there was little of that patience which holds men back from
theorising and keeps them ready to receive the truth.  He was patient
enough in doing, but in thinking he was not patient at all.  No sooner
had he observed a fact than he must find a theory which would bring it
into relation with the whole of his knowledge; and if the facts would not
harmonise of themselves he invented a scheme of things by which they were
forced into harmony.  He was indeed a Darwinian before his time, an adept
in the art of inventing causes to fit facts, and then proving that the
facts sprang from the causes; but his origins were tangible, immovable
things of rock and soil that could be seen and visited by other men, and
their true relation to the terrestrial phenomena accurately established;
so that his very proofs were monumental, and became themselves the
advertisements of his profound misjudgment.  But meanwhile he is the
Admiral of the Ocean Seas, and can “make it so”; and accordingly, in a
state of mental instability, he makes the Gulf of Paria to be a slope of
earth immediately below the Garden of Eden, although fortunately he does
not this time provide a sworn affidavit of trembling ships’ boys to
confirm his discovery.

Meanwhile also here were pearls; the native women wore ropes of them all
over their bodies, and a fair store of them were bartered for pieces of
broken crockery.  Asked as usual about the pearls the natives, also as
usual, pointed vaguely to the west and south-west, and explained that
there were more pearls in that direction.  But the Admiral would not
tarry.  Although he believed that he was within reach of Eden and pearls,
he was more anxious to get back to Espanola and send the thrilling news
to Spain than he was to push on a little farther and really assure
himself of the truth.  How like Christopher that was!  Ideas to him were
of more value than facts, as indeed they are to the world at large; but
one is sometimes led to wonder whether he did not sometimes hesitate to
turn his ideas into facts for very fear that they should turn out to be
only ideas.  Was he, in his relations with Spain and the world, a trader
in the names rather than the substance of things?  We have seen him going
home to Spain and announcing the discovery of the Golden Chersonesus,
although he had only discovered what he erroneously supposed to be an
indication of it; proclaiming the discovery of the Ophir of Solomon
without taking the trouble to test for himself so tremendous an
assumption; and we now see him hurrying away to dazzle Spain with the
story that he has discovered the Garden of Eden, without even trying to
push on for a few days more to secure so much as a cutting from the Tree
of Life.

These are grave considerations; for although happily the Tree of Life is
now of no importance to any human being, the doings of Admiral
Christopher were of great importance to himself and to his fellow-men at
that time, and are still to-day, through the infinite channels in which
human thought and action run and continue thoughout the world, of grave
importance to us.  Perhaps this is not quite the moment, now that the
poor Admiral is lying in pain and weakness and not quite master of his
own mind, to consider fully how he stands in this matter of honesty; we
will leave it for the present until he is well again, or better still,
until his tale of life and action is complete, and comes as a whole
before the bar of human judgment.

On August 11th Columbus turned east again after having given up the
attempt to find a passage to the north round Paria.  There were practical
considerations that brought him to this action.  As the water was growing
shoaler and shoaler he had sent a caravel of light draft some way further
to the westward, and she reported that there lay ahead of her a great
inner bay or gulf consisting of almost entirely fresh water.  Provisions,
moreover, were running short, and were, as usual, turning bad; the
Admiral’s health made vigorous action of any kind impossible for him; he
was anxious about the condition of Espanola--anxious also, as we have
seen, to send this great news home; and he therefore turned back and
decided to risk the passage of the Dragon’s Mouth.  He anchored in the
neighbouring harbour until the wind was in the right quarter, and with
some trepidation put his ships into the boiling tideway.  When they were
in the middle of the passage the wind fell to a dead calm, and the ships,
with their sails hanging loose, were borne on the dizzy surface of
eddies, overfalls, and whirls of the tide.  Fortunately there was deep
water in the passage, and the strength of the current carried them safely
through.  Once outside they bore away to the northward, sighting the
islands of Tobago and Grenada and, turning westward again, came to the
islands of Cubagua and Margarita, where three pounds of pearls were
bartered from the natives.  A week after the passage of the Dragon’s
Mouth Columbus sighted the south coast of Espanola, which coast he made
at a point a long way to the east of the new settlement that he had
instructed Bartholomew to found; and as the winds were contrary, and he
feared it might take him a long time to beat up against them, he sent a
boat ashore with a letter which was to be delivered by a native messenger
to the Adelantado.  The letter was delivered; a few days later a caravel
was sighted which contained Bartholomew himself; and once more, after a
long separation, these two friends and brothers were united.

The see-saw motion of all affairs with which Columbus had to do was in
full swing.  We have seen him patching up matters in Espanola; hurrying
to Spain just in time to rescue his damaged reputation and do something
to restore it; and now when he had come back it was but a sorry tale that
Bartholomew had to tell him.  A fortress had been built at the Hayna
gold-mines, but provisions had been so scarce that there had been
something like a famine among the workmen there; no digging had been
done, no planting, no making of the place fit for human occupation and
industry.  Bartholomew had been kept busy in collecting the native
tribute, and in planning out the beginnings of the settlement at the
mouth of the river Ozema, which was at first called the New Isabella, but
was afterwards named San Domingo in honour of old Domenico at Savona.
The cacique Behechio had been giving trouble; had indeed marched out with
an army against Bartholomew, but had been more or less reconciled by the
intervention of his sister Anacaona, widow of the late Caonabo, who had
apparently transferred her affections to Governor Bartholomew.  The
battle was turned into a friendly pagan festival--one of the last ever
held on that once happy island--in which native girls danced in a green
grove, with the beautiful Anacaona, dressed only in garlands, carried on
a litter in their midst.

But in the Vega Real, where a chapel had been built by the priests of the
neighbouring settlement who were beginning to make converts, trouble had
arisen in consequence of an outrage on the wife of the cacique Guarionex.
The chapel was raided, the shrine destroyed, and the sacred vessels
carried off.  The Spaniards seized a number of Indians whom they
suspected of having had a hand in the desecration, and burned them at the
stake in the most approved manner of the Inquisition--a hideous
punishment that fanned the remaining embers of the native spirit into
flame, and produced a hostile combination of Guarionex and several other
caciques, whose rebellion it took the Adelantado some trouble and display
of arms to quench.

But the worst news of all was the treacherous revolt of Francisco Roldan,
a Spaniard who had once been a servant of the Admiral’s, and who had been
raised by him to the office of judge in the island--an able creature,
but, like too many recipients of Christopher’s favour, a treacherous
rascal at bottom.  As soon as the Admiral’s back was turned Roldan had
begun to make mischief, stirring up the discontent that was never far
below the surface of life in the colony, and getting together a large
band of rebellious ruffians.  He had a plan to murder Bartholomew
Columbus and place himself at the head of the colony, but this fell
through.  Then, in Bartholomew’s absence, he had a passage with James
Columbus, who had now returned to the island and had resumed his.
official duties at Isabella.  Bartholomew, who was at another part of the
coast collecting tribute, had sent a caravel laden with cotton to
Isabella, and well-meaning James had her drawn up on the beach.  Roldan
took the opportunity to represent this innocent action as a sign of the
intolerable autocracy of the Columbus family, who did not even wish a
vessel to be in a condition to sail for Spain with news of their
misdeeds.  Insolent Roldan formally asks James to send the caravel to
Spain with supplies; poor James refuses and, perhaps being at bottom
afraid of Roldan and his insolences, despatches him to the Vega Real with
a force to bring to order some caciques who had been giving trouble.
Possibly to his surprise, although not to ours, Roldan departs with
alacrity at the head of seventy armed men.  Honest, zealous James, no
doubt; but also, we begin to fear, stupid James.

The Vega Real was the most attractive part of the colony, and the scene
of infinite idleness and debauchery in the early days of the Spanish
settlement.  As Margarite and other mutineers had acted, so did Roldan
and his soldiers now act, making sallies against several of the chain of
forts that stretched across the island, and even upon Isabella itself;
and returning to the Vega to the enjoyment of primitive wild pleasures.
Roldan and Bartholomew Columbus stalked each other about the island with
armed forces for several months, Roldan besieging Bartholomew in the
fortress at the Vega, which he had occupied in Roldan’s absence, and
trying to starve him out there.  The arrival in February 1498 of the two
ships which had been sent out from Spain in advance, and which brought
also the news of the Admiral’s undamaged favour at Court, and of the
royal confirmation of Bartholomew’s title, produced for the moment a good
moral effect; Roldan went and sulked in the mountains, refusing to have
any parley or communication with the Adelantado, declining indeed to
treat with any one until the Admiral himself should return.  In the
meantime his influence with the natives was strong enough to produce a
native revolt, which Bartholomew had only just succeeded in suppressing
when Christopher arrived on August 30th.

The Admiral was not a little distressed to find that the three ships from
which he had parted company at Ferro had not yet arrived.  His own voyage
ought to have taken far longer than theirs; they had now been nine weeks
at sea, and there was nothing to account for their long delay.  When at
last they did appear, however they brought with them only a new
complication.  They had lost their way among the islands and had been
searching about for Espanola, finally making a landfall there on the
coast of Xaragua, the south-western province of the island, where Roldan
and his followers were established.  Roldan had received them and,
concealing the fact of his treachery, procured a large store of
provisions from them, his followers being meanwhile busy among the crews
of the ships inciting them to mutiny and telling them of the oppression
of the Admiral’s rule and the joys of a lawless life.  The gaol-birds
were nothing loth; after eight weeks at sea a spell ashore in this
pleasant land, with all kinds of indulgences which did not come within
the ordinary regimen of convicts and sailors, greatly appealing to them.
The result was that more than half of the crews mutinied and joined
Roldan, and the captains were obliged to put to sea with their small
loyal remnant.  Carvajal remained behind in order to try to persuade
Roldan to give himself up; but Roldan had no such idea, and Carvajal had
to make his way by land to San Domingo, where he made his report to the
Admiral.  Roldan has in fact delivered a kind of ultimatum.  He will
surrender to no one but the Admiral, and that only on condition that he
gets a free pardon.  If negotiations are opened, Roldan will treat with
no one but Carvajal.  The Admiral, whose grip of the situation is getting
weaker and weaker, finds himself in a difficulty.  His loyal army is only
some seventy strong, while Roldan has, of disloyal settlers, gaol-birds,
and sailors, much more than that.  The Admiral, since he cannot reduce
his enemy’s force by capturing them, seeks to do it by bribing them; and
the greatest bribe that he can think of to offer to these malcontents is
that any who like may have a free passage home in the five caravels which
are now waiting to return to Spain.  To such a pass have things come in
the paradise of Espanola!  But the rabble finds life pleasant enough in
Xaragua, where they are busy with indescribable pleasures; and for the
moment there is no great response to this invitation to be gone.
Columbus therefore despatches his ships, with such rabble of colonists,
gaol-birds, and mariners as have already had their fill both of pain and
pleasure, and writes his usual letter to the Sovereigns--half full of the
glories of the new discoveries he has made, the other half setting forth
the evil doings of Roldan, and begging that he may be summoned to Spain
for trial there.  Incidentally, also, he requests a further licence for
two years for the capture and despatch of slaves to Spain.  So the
vessels sail back on October 18, 1498, and the Admiral turns wearily to
the task of disentangling the web of difficulty that has woven itself
about him.

Carvajal and Ballester--another loyal captain--were sent with a letter to
Roldan urging him to come to terms, and Carvajal and Ballester added
their own honest persuasions.  But Roldan was firm; he wished to be quit
of the Admiral and his rule, and to live independently in the island; and
of his followers, although some here and there showed signs of
submission, the greater number were so much in love with anarchy that
they could not be counted upon.  For two months negotiations of a sort
were continued, Roldan even presenting himself under a guarantee of
safety at San Domingo, where he had a fruitless conference with the
Admiral; where also he had an opportunity of observing what a sorry state
affairs in the capital were in, and what a mess Columbus was making of it
all.  Roldan, being a simple man, though a rascal, had only to remain
firm in order to get his way against a mind like the Admiral’s, and get
his way he ultimately did.  The Admiral made terms of a kind most
humiliating to him, and utterly subversive of his influence and
authority.  The mutineers were not only to receive a pardon but a
certificate (good Heavens!) of good conduct.  Caravels were to be sent to
convey them to Spain; and they were to be permitted to carry with them
all the slaves that they had collected and all the native young women
whom they had ravished from their homes.

Columbus signs this document on the 21st of November, and promises that
the ships shall be ready in fifty days; and then, at his wits’ end, and
hearing of irregularities in the interior of the island, sets off with
Bartholomew to inspect the posts and restore them to order.  In his
absence the see-saw, in due obedience to the laws that govern all
see-saws, gives a lurch to the other side, and things go all wrong again
in San Domingo.  The preparations for the despatch of the caravels are
neglected as soon as his back is turned; not fifty days, but nearly one
hundred days elapse before they are ready to sail from San Domingo to
Xaragua.  Even then they are delayed by storms and head-winds; and when
they do arrive Roldan and his company will not embark in them.  The
agreement has been broken; a new one must be made.  Columbus, returning
to San Domingo after long and harassing struggles on the other end of
the see-saw, gets news of this deadlock, and at the same time has news
from Fonseca in Spain of a far from agreeable character.  His complaints
against the people under him have been received by the Sovereigns and
will be duly considered, but their Majesties have not time at the moment
to go into them.  That is the gist of it, and very cold cheer it is for
the Admiral, balancing himself on this turbulent see-saw with anxious
eyes turned to Spain for encouragement and approval.

In the depression that followed the receipt of this letter he was no
match for Roldan.  He even himself took a caravel and sailed towards
Xaragua, where he was met by Roldan, who boarded his ship and made his
new proposals.  Their impudence is astounding; and when we consider that
the Admiral had in theory absolute powers in the island, the fact that
such proposals could be made, not to say accepted, shows how far out of
relation were his actual with his nominal powers.  Roldan proposed that
he should be allowed to give a number of his friends a free passage to
Spain; that to all who should remain free grants of land should be given;
and (a free pardon and certificate of good conduct contenting him no
longer) that a proclamation should be made throughout the island
admitting that all the charges of disloyalty and mutiny which had been
brought against him and his followers were without foundation; and,
finally, that he should be restored to his office of Alcalde Mayor or
chief magistrate.

Here was a bolus for Christopher to swallow; a bolus compounded of his
own words, his own acts, his hope, dignity, supremacy.  In dismal
humiliation he accepted the terms, with the addition of a clause more
scandalous still--to the effect that the mutineers reserved the right,
in case the Admiral should fail in the exact performance of any of his
promises, to enforce them by compulsion of arms or any other method they
might think fit.  This precious document was signed on September 28, 1499
just twelve months after the agreement which it was intended to replace;
and the Admiral, sailing dismally back to San Domingo, ruefully pondered
on the fruits of a year’s delay.  Even then he was trying to make excuses
for himself, such as he made afterwards to the Sovereigns when he tried
to explain that this shameful capitulation was invalid.  That he signed
under compulsion; that he was on board a ship, and so was not on his
viceregal territory; that the rebels had already been tried, and that he
had not the power to revoke a sentence which bore the authority of the
Crown; that he had not the power to dispose of the Crown property
--desperate, agonised shuffling of pride and self-esteem in the coils of
trial and difficulty.  Enough of it.



A breath of salt air again will do us no harm as a relief from these
perilous balancings of Columbus on the see-saw at Espanola.  His true
work in this world had indeed already been accomplished.  When he smote
the rock of western discovery many springs flowed from it, and some were
destined to run in mightier channels than that which he himself followed.
Among other men stirred by the news of Columbus’s first voyage there was
one walking the streets of Bristol in 1496 who was fired to a similar
enterprise--a man of Venice, in boyhood named Zuan Caboto, but now known
in England, where he has some time been settled, as Captain John Cabot.
A sailor and trader who has travelled much through the known sea-roads
of this world, and has a desire to travel upon others not so well known.
He has been in the East, has seen the caravans of Mecca and the goods
they carried, and, like Columbus, has conceived in his mind the roundness
of the world as a practical fact rather than a mere mathematical theory.
Hearing of Columbus’s success Cabot sets what machinery in England he has
access to in motion to secure for him patents from King Henry VII.; which
patents he receives on March 5, 1496.  After spending a long time in
preparation, and being perhaps a little delayed by diplomatic protests
from the Spanish Ambassador in London, he sails from Bristol in May 1497.

After sailing west two thousand leagues Cabot found land in the
neighbourhood of Cape Breton, and was thus in all probability the first
discoverer, since the Icelanders, of the mainland of the New World.  He
turned northward, sailed through the strait of Belle Isle, and came home
again, having accomplished his task in three months.  Cabot, like
Columbus, believed he had seen the territory of the Great Khan, of whom
he told the interested population of Bristol some strange things.  He
further told them of the probable riches of this new land if it were
followed in a southerly direction; told them some lies also, it appears,
since he said that the waters there were so dense with fish that his
vessels could hardly move in them.  He received a gratuity of L10 and a
pension, and made a great sensation in Bristol by walking about the city
dressed in fine silk garments.  He took other voyages also with his son
Sebastian, who followed with him the rapid widening stream of discovery
and became Pilot Major of Spain, and President of the Congress appointed
in 1524 to settle the conflicting pretensions of various discoverers; but
so far as our narrative is concerned, having sailed across from Bristol
and discovered the mainland of the New World some years before Columbus
discovered it, John Cabot sails into oblivion.

Another great conquest of the salt unknown taken place a few days before
Columbus sailed on his third voyage.  The accidental discovery of the
Cape by Bartholomew Diaz in 1486 had not been neglected by Portugal; and
the achievements of Columbus, while they cut off Portuguese enterprise
from the western ocean, had only stimulated it to greater activity within
its own spheres.  Vasco da Gama sailed from Lisbon in July 1497; by the
end of November he had rounded the Cape of Good Hope; and in May 1498,
after a long voyage full of interest, peril, and hardship he had landed
at Calicut on the shores of the true India.  He came back in 1499 with a
battered remnant, his crew disabled by sickness and exhaustion, and half
his ships lost; but he had in fact discovered a road for trade and
adventure to the East that was not paved with promises, dreams, or mad
affidavits, but was a real and tangible achievement, bringing its reward
in commerce and wealth for Portugal.  At that very moment Columbus was
groping round the mainland of South America, thinking it to be the coast
of Cathay, and the Garden of Eden, and God knows what other
cosmographical--theological abstractions; and Portugal, busy with her
arrangements for making money, could afford for the moment to look on
undismayed at the development of the mine of promises discovered by the
Spanish Admiral.

The anxiety of Columbus to communicate the names of things before he had
made sure of their substance received another rude chastisement in the
events that followed the receipt in Spain of his letter announcing the
discovery of the Garden of Eden and the land of pearls.  People in Spain
were not greatly interested in his theories of the terrestrial Paradise;
but more than one adventurer pricked up his ears at the name of pearls,
and among the first was our old friend Alonso de Ojeda, who had returned
some time before from Espanola and was living in Spain.  His position as
a member of Columbus’s force on the second voyage and the distinction he
had gained there gave him special opportunities of access to the letters
and papers sent home by Columbus; and he found no difficulty in getting
Fonseca to show him the maps and charts of the coast of Paria sent back
by the Admiral, the veritable pearls which had been gathered, and the
enthusiastic descriptions of the wealth of this new coast.  Knowing
something of Espanola, and of the Admiral also, and reading in the
despatches of the turbulent condition of the colony, he had a shrewd idea
that Columbus’s hands would be kept pretty full in Espanola itself, and
that he would have no opportunity for some time to make any more voyages
of discovery.  He therefore represented to Fonseca what a pity it would
be if all this revenue should remain untapped just because one man had
not time to attend to it, and he proposed that he should take out an
expedition at his own cost and share the profits with the Crown.

This proposal was too tempting to be refused; unlike the expeditions of
Columbus, which were all expenditure and no revenue, it promised a chance
of revenue without any expenditure at all.  The Paria coast, having been
discovered subsequent to the agreement made with Columbus, was considered
by Fonseca to be open to private enterprise; and he therefore granted
Ojeda a licence to go and explore it.  Among those who went with him were
Amerigo Vespucci and Columbus’s old pilot, Juan de la Cosa, as well as
some of the sailors who had been with the Admiral on the coast of Paria
and had returned in the caravels which had brought his account of it back
to Spain.  Ojeda sailed on May 20, 1499; made a landfall some hundreds of
miles to the eastward of the Orinoco, coasted thence as far as the island
of Trinidad, and sailed along the northern coast of the peninsula of
Paria until he came to a country where the natives built their hots on
piles in the water, and to which he gave the name of Venezuela.  It was
by his accidental presence on this voyage that Vespucci, the
meat-contractor, came to give his name to America--a curious story of
international jealousies, intrigues, lawsuits, and lies which we have not
the space to deal with here.  After collecting a considerable quantity of
pearls Ojeda, who was beginning to run short of provisions, turned
eastward again and sought the coast of Espanola, where we shall presently
meet with him again.

And Ojeda was not the only person in Spain who was enticed by Columbus’s
glowing descriptions to go and look for the pearls of Paria.  There was
in fact quite a reunion of old friends of his and ours in the western
ocean, though they went thither in a spirit far different from that of
ancient friendship.  Pedro Alonso Nino, who had also been on the Paria
coast with Columbus, who had come home with the returning ships, and
whose patience (for he was an exceedingly practical man) had perhaps been
tried by the strange doings of the Admiral in the Gulf of Paria, decided
that he as well as any one else might go and find some pearls.  Nino is a
poor man, having worked hard in all his voyagings backwards and forwards
across the Atlantic; but he has a friend with money, one Luis Guerra, who
provides him with the funds necessary for fitting out a small caravel
about the size of his old ship the Nifta.  Guerra, who has the money,
also has a brother Christoval; and his conditions are that Christoval
shall be given the command of the caravel.  Practical Niflo does not care
so long as he reaches the place where the pearls are.  He also applies to
Fonseca for licence to make discoveries; and, duly receiving it, sails
from Palos in the beginning of June 1499, hot upon the track of Ojeda.

They did a little quiet discovery, principally in the domain of human
nature, caroused with the friendly natives, but attended to business all
the time; with the result that in the following April they were back in
Spain with a treasure of pearls out of which, after Nifio had been made
independent for life and Guerra, Christoval, and the rest of them had
their shares, there remained a handsome sum for the Crown.  An extremely
practical, businesslike voyage this; full of lessons for our poor
Christopher, could he but have known and learned them.

Yet another of our old friends profited by the Admiral’s discovery.  What
Vincenti Yafiez Pinzon has been doing all these years we have no record;
living at Palos, perhaps, doing a little of his ordinary coasting
business, administering the estates of his brother Martin Alonso, and,
almost for a certainty, talking pretty big about who it was that really
did all the work in the discovery of the New World.  Out of the obscurity
of conjecture he emerges into fact in December 1499, when he is found at
Palos fitting out four caravels for the purpose of exploring farther
along the coast of the southern mainland.  That he also was after pearls
is pretty certain; but on the other hand he was more of a sailor than an
adventurer, was a discoverer at heart, and had no small share of the
family taste for sea travel.  He took a more southerly course than any of
the others and struck the coast of America south of the equator on
January 20, 1500.  He sailed north past the mouths of the Amazon and
Orinoco through the Gulf of Paria, and reached Espanola in June 1500.
He only paused there to take in provisions, and sailed to the west in
search of further discoveries; but he lost two of his caravels in a gale
and had to put back to Espanola.

He sailed thence for Palos, and reached home in September 1500, having
added no inconsiderable share to the mass of new geographical knowledge
that was being accumulated.  In later years he took a high place in the
maritime world of Spain.

And finally, to complete the account of the chief minor discoveries of
these two busy years, we must mention Pedro Alvarez Cabral of Portugal,
who was despatched in March 1, 1500 from Lisbon to verify the discoveries
of Da Gama.  He reached Calicut six months later, losing on the voyage
four of his caravels and most of his company.  Among the lost was
Bartholomew Diaz, the first discoverer of the Cape of Good Hope, who was
on this voyage in a subordinate capacity, and whose bones were left to
dissolve in the stormy waters that beat round the Cape whose barrier he
was the first to pass.  The chief event of this voyage, however, was not
the reaching of Calicut nor the drowning of Diaz (which was chiefly of
importance to himself, poor soul!) but the discovery of Brazil, which
Cabral made in following the southerly course too far to the west.
He landed there, in the Bay of Porto Seguro, on May 1, 1500, and took
formal possession of the land for the Crown of Portugal, naming it Vera
Cruz, or the Land of the True Cross.

In the assumption of Columbus and his contemporaries all these doings
were held to detract from the glory of his own achievements, and were the
subject of endless affidavits, depositions, quarrels, arguments, proofs
and claims in the great lawsuit that was in after years carried on
between the Crown of Spain and the heirs of Columbus concerning his
titles and revenues.  We, however, may take a different view.  With the
exception of the discoveries of the Cape of Good Hope and the coast of
Brazil all these enterprises were directly traceable to Columbus’s own
achievements and were inspired by his example.  The things that a man can
do in his own person are limited by the laws of time and space; it is
only example and influence that are infinite and illimitable, and in
which the spirit of any achievement can find true immortality.


THE THIRD VOYAGE-(continued)

It may perhaps be wearisome to the reader to return to the tangled and
depressing situation in Espanola, but it cannot be half so wearisome as
it was for Columbus, whom we left enveloped in that dark cloud of error
and surrender in which he sacrificed his dignity and good faith to the
impudent demands of a mutinous servant.  To his other troubles in San
Domingo the presence of this Roldan was now added; and the reinstated
Alcalde was not long in making use of the victory he had gained.  He bore
himself with intolerable arrogance and insolence, discharging one of
Columbus’s personal bodyguard on the ground that no one should hold any
office on the island except with his consent.  He demanded grants of land
for himself and his followers, which Columbus held himself obliged to
concede; and the Admiral, further to pacify him, invented a very
disastrous system of repartimientos, under which certain chiefs were
relieved from paying tribute on condition of furnishing feudal service to
the settlers--a system which rapidly developed into the most cruel and
oppressive kind of slavery.  The Admiral at this time also, in despair of
keeping things quiet by his old methods of peace and conciliation,
created a kind of police force which roamed about the island, exacting
tribute and meting out summary punishment to all defaulters.  Among other
concessions weakly made to Roldan at this time was the gift of the Crown
estate of Esperanza, situated in the Vega Real, whither he betook himself
and embarked on what was nothing more nor less than a despotic reign,
entirely ignoring the regulations and prerogatives of the Admiral, and
taking prisoners and administering punishment just as he pleased.  The
Admiral was helpless, and thought of going back to Spain, but the
condition of the island was such that he did not dare to leave it.
Instead, he wrote a long letter to the Sovereigns, full of complaints
against other people and justifications of himself, in the course of
which he set forth those quibbling excuses for his capitulation to Roldan
which we have already heard.  And there was a pathetic request at the end
of the letter that his son Diego might be sent out to him.  As I have
said, Columbus was by this time a prematurely old man, and feeling the
clouds gathering about him, and the loneliness and friendlessness of his
position at Espanola, he instinctively looked to the next generation for
help, and to the presence of his own son for sympathy and comfort.

It was at this moment (September 5, 1499) that a diversion arose in the
rumour that four caravels had been seen off the western end of Espanola
and duly reported to the Admiral; and this announcement was soon followed
by the news that they were commanded by Ojeda, who was collecting
dye-wood in the island forests.  Columbus, although he had so far as we
know had no previous difficulties with Ojeda, had little cause now to
credit any adventurer with kindness towards himself; and Ojeda’s secrecy
in not reporting himself at San Domingo, and, in fact, his presence on
the island at all without the knowledge of the Admiral, were sufficient
evidence that he was there to serve his own ends.  Some gleam of
Christopher’s old cleverness in handling men was--now shown by his
instructing Roldan to sally forth and bring Ojeda to order.  It was a
case of setting a thief to catch a thief and, as it turned out, was not
a bad stroke.  Roldan, nothing loth, sailed round to that part of the
coast where Ojeda’s ships were anchored, and asked to see his licence;
which was duly shown to him and rather took the wind out of his sails.
He heard a little gossip from Ojeda, moreover, which had its own
significance for him.  The Queen was ill; Columbus was in disgrace;
there was talk of superseding him.  Ojeda promised to sail round to San
Domingo and report himself; but instead, he sailed to the east along the
coast of Xaragua, where he got into communication with some discontented
Spanish settlers and concocted a scheme for leading them to San Domingo
to demand redress for their imagined grievances.  Roldan, however, who
had come to look for Ojeda, discovered him at this point; and there
ensued some very pretty play between the two rascals, chiefly in
trickery and treachery, such as capturing each other’s boats and
emissaries, laying traps for one another, and taking prisoner one
another’s crews.  The end of it was that Ojeda left the island without
having reported himself to Columbus, but not before he had completed his
business--which was that of provisioning his ships and collecting
dye-wood and slaves.

And so exit Ojeda from the Columbian drama.  Of his own drama only one
more act remained to be played; which, for the sake of our past interest
in him, we will mention here.  Chiefly on account of his intimacy with
Fonseca he was some years later given a governorship in the neighbourhood
of the Gulf of Darien; Juan de la Cosa accompanying him as unofficial
partner.  Ojeda has no sooner landed there than he is fighting the
natives; natives too many for him this time; Ojeda forced to hide in the
forest, where he finds the body of de la Cosa, who has come by a shocking
death.  Ojeda afterwards tries to govern his colony, but is no good at
that; cannot govern his own temper, poor fellow.  Quarrels with his crew,
is put in irons, carried to Espanola, and dies there (1515) in great
poverty and eclipse.  One of the many, evidently, who need a strong
guiding hand, and perish without it.

It really began to seem as though Roldan, having had his fling and
secured the excessive privileges that he coveted, had decided that
loyalty to Christopher was for the present the most profitable policy;
but the mutinous spirit that he had cultivated in his followers for his
own ends could not be so readily converted into this cheap loyalty.  More
trouble was yet to come of this rebellion.  There was in the island a
young Spanish aristocrat, Fernando de Guevara by name, one of the many
who had come out in the hope of enjoying himself and making a fortune
quickly, whose more than outrageously dissolute life in San Domingo had
caused Columbus to banish him thence; and he was now living near Xaragua
with a cousin of his, Adrian de Moxeca, who had been one of the
ringleaders in Roldan’s conspiracy.  Within this pleasant province of
Xaragua lived, as we have seen, Anacaona, the sister of Caonabo, the Lord
of the House of Gold.  She herself was a beautiful woman, called by her
subjects Bloom of the Gold; and she had a still more beautiful daughter,
Higuamota, who appears in history, like so many other women, on account
of her charms and what came of them.

Of pretty Higuamota, who once lived like a dryad among the groves of
Espanola and has been dead now for so long, we know nothing except that
she was beautiful, which, although she doubtless did not think so while
she lived, turns out to have been the most important thing about her.
Young Guevara, coming to stay with his cousin Adrian, becomes a visitor
at the house of Anacaona; sees the pretty daughter and falls in love with
her.  Other people also, it appears, have been in a similar state, but
Higuamota is not very accessible; a fact which of course adds to the
interest of the chase, and turns dissolute Fernando’s idle preference
into something like a passion.  Roldan, who has also had an eye upon her,
and apparently no more than an eye, discovers that Fernando, in order to
gratify his passion, is proposing to go the absurd length of marrying the
young woman, and has sent for a priest for that purpose.  Roldan,
instigated thereto by primitive forces, thinks it would be impolitic for
a Spanish grandee to marry with a heathen; very well, then, Fernando will
have her baptized--nothing simpler when water and a priest are handy.
Roldan, seeing that the young man is serious, becomes peremptory, and
orders him to leave Xaragua.  Fernando ostentatiously departs, but is
discovered a little later actually living in the house of Anacaona, who
apparently is sympathetic to Love’s young dream.  Once more ordered away,
this time with anger and threats, Guevara changes his tune and implores
Roldan to let him stay, promising that he will give up the marriage
project and also, no doubt, the no-marriage project.  But Guevara has
sympathisers.  The mutineers have not forgiven Roldan for deserting them
and becoming a lawful instead of an unlawful ruler.  They are all on the
side of Guevara, who accordingly moves to the next stage of island
procedure, and sets on foot some kind of plot to kill Roldan and the
Admiral.  Fortunately where there is treachery it generally works both
ways; this plot came to the ears of the authorities; the conspirators
were arrested and sent to San Domingo.

This action came near to bringing the whole island about Columbus’s ears.
Adrian de Moxeca was furious at what he conceived to be the treachery of
Roldan, for Roldan was in such a pass that the barest act of duty was
necessarily one of treachery to his friends.  Moxeca took the place of
chief rebel that Roldan had vacated; rallied the mutineers round him, and
was on the point of starting for Concepcion, one of the chain of forts
across the island where Columbus was at present staying, when the Admiral
discovered his plan.  All that was strongest and bravest in him rose up
at this menace.  His weakness and cowardice were forgotten; and with the
spirit of an old sea-lion he sallied forth against the mutineers.  He had
only a dozen men on whom he could rely, but he armed them well and
marched secretly and swiftly under cloud of night to the place where
Moxeca and his followers were encamped in fond security, and there
suddenly fell upon them, capturing Moxeca and the chief ringleaders.  The
rest scattered in terror and escaped.  Moxeca was hurried off to the
battlements of San Domingo and there, in the very midst of a longdrawn
trembling confession to the priest in attendance, was swung off the
ramparts and hanged.  The others, although also condemned to death, were
kept in irons in the fortress, while Christopher and Bartholomew, roused
at last to vigorous action, scoured the island hunting down the
remainder, killing some who resisted, hanging others on the spot, and
imprisoning the remainder at San Domingo.

After these prompt measures peace reigned for a time in the island, and
Columbus was perhaps surprised to see what wholesome effects could be
produced by a little exemplary severity.  The natives, who under the
weakness of his former rule had been discontented and troublesome, now
settled down submissively to their yoke; the Spaniards began to work in
earnest on their farms; and there descended upon island affairs a brief
St. Martin’s Summer of peace before the final winter of blight and death
set in.  The Admiral, however, was obviously in precarious health; his
ophthalmia became worse, and the stability of his mind suffered.  He had
dreams and visions of divine help and comfort, much needed by him, poor
soul, in all his tribulations and adversities.  Even yet the cup was not

We must now turn back to Spain and try to form some idea of the way in
which the doings of Columbus were being regarded there if we are to
understand the extraordinary calamity that was soon to befall him.  It
must be remembered first of all that his enterprise had never really been
popular from the first.  It was carried out entirely by the energy and
confidence of Queen Isabella, who almost alone of those in power believed
in it as a thing which was certain to bring ultimate glory, as well as
riches and dominion, to Spain and the Catholic faith.  As we have seen,
there had been a brief ebullition of popular favour when Columbus
returned from his first voyage, but it was a popularity excited solely by
the promises of great wealth that Columbus was continually holding forth.
When those promises were not immediately fulfilled popular favour
subsided; and when the adventurers who had gone out to the new islands on
the strength of those promises had returned with shattered health and
empty pockets there was less chance than ever of the matter being
regarded in its proper light by the people of Spain.  Columbus had either
found a gold mine or he had found nothing--that was the way in which the
matter was popularly regarded.  Those who really understood the
significance of his discoveries and appreciated their scientific
importance did not merely stay at home in Spain and raise a clamour; they
went out in the Admiral’s footsteps and continued the work that he had
begun.  Even King Ferdinand, for all his cleverness, had never understood
the real lines on which the colony should have been developed.  His eyes
were fixed upon Europe; he saw in the discoveries of Columbus a means
rather than an end; and looked to them simply as a source of revenue with
the help of which he could carry on his ambitious schemes.  And when, as
other captains made voyages confirming and extending the work of
Columbus, he did begin to understand the significance of what had been
done, he realised too late that the Admiral had been given powers far in
excess of what was prudent or sensible.

During all the time that Columbus and his brothers were struggling with
the impossible situation at Espanola there was but one influence at work
in Spain, and that was entirely destructive to the Admiral.  Every
caravel that came from the New World brought two things.  It brought a
crowd of discontented colonists, many of whom had grave reasons for their
discontent; and it brought letters from the Admiral in which more and
more promises were held out, but in which also querulous complaints
against this and that person, and against the Spanish settlers generally,
were set forth at wearisome length.  It is not remarkable that the people
of Spain, even those who were well disposed towards Columbus, began to
wonder if these two things were not cause and effect.  The settlers may
have been a poor lot, but they were the material with which Columbus had
to deal; he had powers enough, Heaven knew, powers of life and death; and
the problem began to resolve itself in the minds of those at the head of
affairs in Spain in the following terms.  Given an island, rich and
luxuriant beyond the dreams of man; given a native population easily
subdued; given settlers of one kind or another; and given a Viceroy with
unlimited powers--could he or could he not govern the island?  It was a
by no means unfair way of putting the case, and there is little justice
in the wild abuse that has been hurled at Ferdinand and Isabella on this
ground.  Columbus may have been the greatest genius in the world; very
possibly they admitted it; but in the meanwhile Spain was resounding with
the cries of the impoverished colonists who had returned from his ocean
Paradise.  No doubt the Sovereigns ignored them as much as they possibly
could; but when it came to ragged emaciated beggars coming in batches of
fifty at a time and sitting in the very courts of the Alhambra,
exhibiting bunches of grapes and saying that that was all they could
afford to live upon since they had come back from the New World, some
notice had to be taken of it.  Even young Diego and Ferdinand, the
Admiral’s sons, came in for the obloquy with which his name was
associated; the colonial vagabonds hung round the portals of the palace
and cried out upon them as they passed so that they began to dislike
going out.  Columbus, as we know, had plenty of enemies who had access to
the King and Queen; and never had enemies an easier case to urge.  Money
was continually being spent on ships and supplies; where was the return
for it?  What about the Ophir of Solomon?  What about the Land of Spices?
What about the pearls?  And if you want to add a touch of absurdity, what
about the Garden of Eden and the Great Khan?

To the most impartial eyes it began to appear as though Columbus were
either an impostor or a fool.  There is no evidence that Ferdinand and
Isabella thought that he was an impostor or that he had wilfully deceived
them; but there is some evidence that they began to have an inkling as to
what kind of a man he really was, and as to his unfitness for governing a
colony.  Once more something had to be done.  The sending out of a
commissioner had not been a great success before, but in the difficulties
of the situation it seemed the only thing.  Still there was a good deal
of hesitation, and it is probable that Isabella was not yet fully
convinced of the necessity for this grave step.  This hesitation was
brought to an end by the arrival from Espanola of the ships bearing the
followers of Roldan, who had been sent back under the terms of Columbus’s
feeble capitulation.  The same ships brought a great quantity of slaves,
which the colonists were able to show had been brought by the permission
of the Admiral; they carried native girls also, many of them pregnant,
many with new-born babies; and these also came with the permission of the
Admiral.  The ships further carried the Admiral’s letter complaining of
the conspiracy of Roldan and containing the unfortunate request for a
further licence to extend the slave trade.  These circumstances were
probably enough to turn the scale of Isabella’s opinion against the
Admiral’s administration.  The presence of the slaves particularly
angered her kind womanly heart.  “What right has he to give away my
vassals?”  she exclaimed, and ordered that they should all be sent back,
and that in addition all the other slaves who had come home should be
traced and sent back; although of course it was impossible to carry out
this last order.

At any rate there was no longer any hesitation about sending out a
commissioner, and the Sovereigns chose one Francisco de Bobadilla, an
official of the royal household, for the performance of this difficult
mission.  As far as we can decipher him he was a very ordinary official
personage; prejudiced, it is possible, against an administration that had
produced such disastrous results and which offended his orderly official
susceptibilities; otherwise to be regarded as a man exactly honest in the
performance of what he conceived to be his duties, and entirely
indisposed to allow sentiment or any other extraneous matter to interfere
with such due performance.  We shall have need to remember, when we see
him at work in Espanola, that he was not sent out to judge between
Columbus and his Sovereigns or between Columbus and the world, but to
investigate the condition of the colony and to take what action he
thought necessary.  The commission which he bore to the Admiral was in
the following terms:

     “The King and the Queen: Don Christopher Columbus, our Admiral of
     the Ocean-sea.  We have directed Francisco de Bobadilla, the bearer
     of this, to speak to you for us of certain things which he will
     mention: we request you to give him faith and credence and to obey
     him.  From Madrid, May 26, ‘99.  I THE KING.  I THE QUEEN.  By their
     command.  Miguel Perez de Almazan.”

In addition Bobadilla bore with him papers and authorities giving him
complete control and possession of all the forts, arms, and royal
property in the island, in case it should be necessary for him to use
them; and he also had a number of blank warrants which were signed, but
the substance of which was not filled in.  This may seem very dreadful to
us, with our friendship for the poor Admiral; but considering the grave
state of affairs as represented to the King and Queen, who had their
duties to their colonial subjects as well as to Columbus, there was
nothing excessive in it.  If they were to send out a commissioner at all,
and if they were satisfied, as presumably they were, that the man they
had chosen was trustworthy, it was only right to make his authority
absolute.  Thus equipped Francisco de Bobadilla sailed from Spain in July




The first things seen by Francisco de Bobadilla when he entered the
harbour of San Domingo on the morning of the 23rd of August 1500 were the
bodies of several Spaniards, hanging from a gibbet near the water-side
--a grim confirmation of what he had heard about the troubled state of the
island.  While he was waiting for the tide so that he might enter the
harbour a boat put off from shore to ascertain who was on board the
caravels; and it was thus informally that Bobadilla first announced that
he had come to examine into the state of the island.  Columbus was not at
San Domingo, but was occupied in settling the affairs of the Vega Real;
Bartholomew also was absent, stamping out the last smouldering embers of
rebellion in Xaragua; and only James was in command to deal with this
awkward situation.

Bobadilla did not go ashore the first day, but remained on board his ship
receiving the visits of various discontented colonists who, getting early
wind of the purpose of his visit, lost no time in currying favour with
him, Probably he heard enough that first day to have damned the
administration of a dozen islands; but also we must allow him some
interest in the wonderful and strange sights that he was seeing; for
Espanola, which has perhaps grown wearisome to us, was new to him.  He
had brought with him an armed body-guard of twenty-five men, and in the
other caravel were the returned slaves, babies and all, under the charge
of six friars.  On the day following his arrival Bobadilla landed and
heard mass in state, afterwards reading out his commission to the
assembled people.  Evidently he had received a shocking impression of the
state of affairs in the island; that is the only explanation of the
action suddenly taken by him, for his first public act was to demand from
James the release of all the prisoners in the fortress, in order that
they and their accusers should appear before him.

James is in a difficulty; and, mule-like, since he does not know which
way to turn, stands stock still.  He can do nothing, he says, without the
Admiral’s consent.  The next day Bobadilla, again hearing mass in state,
causes further documents to be read showing that a still greater degree
of power had been entrusted to his hands.  Mule-like, James still stands
stock still; the greatest power on earth known to him is his eldest
brother, and he will not, positively dare not, be moved by anything less
than that.  He refuses to give up the prisoners on any grounds
whatsoever, and Bobadilla has to take the fortress by assault--an easy
enough matter since the resistance is but formal.

The next act of Bobadilla’s is not quite so easy to understand.  He
quartered himself in Columbus’s house; that perhaps was reasonable enough
since there may not have been another house in the settlement fit to
receive him; but he also, we are told, took possession of all his papers,
public and private, and also seized the Admiral’s store of money and
began to pay his debts with it for him, greatly to the satisfaction of
San Domingo.  There is an element of the comic in this interpretation of
a commissioner’s powers; and it seemed as though he meant to wind up the
whole Columbus business, lock, stock, and barrel.  It would not be in
accordance with our modern ideas of honour that a man’s private papers
should be seized unless he were suspected of treachery or some criminal
act; but apparently Bobadilla regarded it as necessary.  We must remember
that although he had only heard one side of the case it was evidently so
positive, and the fruits of misgovernment were there so visibly before
his eyes, that no amount of evidence in favour of Columbus would make him
change his mind as to his fitness to govern.  Poor James, witnessing
these things and unable to do anything to prevent them, finds himself
suddenly relieved from the tension of the situation.  Since inaction is
his note, he shall be indulged in it; and he is clapped in irons and cast
into prison.  James can hardly believe the evidence of his senses.  He
has been studying theology lately, it appears, with a view to entering
the Church and perhaps being some day made Bishop of Espanola, but this
new turn of affairs looks as though there were to be an end of all
careers for him, military and ecclesiastical alike.

Christopher at Fort Concepcion had early news of the arrival of
Bobadilla, but in the hazy state of his mind he did not regard it as an
event of sufficient importance to make his immediate presence at San
Domingo advisable.  The name of Bobadilla conveyed nothing to him; and
when he heard that he had come to investigate, he thought that he came
to set right some disputed questions between the Admiral and other
navigators as to the right of visiting Espanola and the Paria coast.
As the days went on, however, he heard more disquieting rumours; grew at
last uneasy, and moved to a fort nearer San Domingo in case it should be
necessary for him to go there.  An officer met him on the road bearing
the proclamations issued by Bobadilla, but not the message from the
Sovereigns requiring the Admiral’s obedience to the commissioner.
Columbus wrote to the commissioner a curious letter, which is not
preserved, in which he sought to gain time; excusing himself from
responsibility for the condition of the island, and assuring Bobadilla
that, as he intended to return to Spain almost immediately, he
(Bobadilla) would have ample opportunity for exercising his command in
his absence.  He also wrote to the Franciscan friars who had accompanied
Bobadilla asking them to use their influence--the Admiral having some
vague connection with the Franciscan order since his days at La Rabida.

No reply came to any of these letters, and Columbus sent word that he
still regarded his authority as paramount in the island.  For reply to
this he received the Sovereigns’ message to him which we have seen,
commanding him to put himself under the direction of Bobadilla.  There
was no mistaking this; there was the order in plain words; and with I
know not what sinkings of heart Columbus at last set out for San Domingo.
Bobadilla had expected resistance, but the Admiral, whatever his faults,
knew how to behave with, dignity in a humiliating position; and he came
into the city unattended on August 23, 1500.  On the outskirts of the
town he was met by Bobadilla’s guards, arrested, put in chains, and
lodged in the fortress, the tower of which exists to this day.  He seemed
to himself to be the victim of a particularly petty and galling kind of
treachery, for it was his own cook, a man called Espinoza, who riveted
his gyves upon him.

There remained Bartholomew to be dealt with, and he, being at large and
in command of the army, might not have proved such an easy conquest, but
that Christopher, at Bobadilla’s request, wrote and advised him to submit
to arrest without any resistance.  Whether Bartholomew acquiesced or not
is uncertain; what is certain is that he also was captured and placed in
irons, and imprisoned on one of the caravels.  James in one caravel,
Bartholomew in another, and Christopher in the fortress, and all in
chains--this is what it has come to with the three sons of old Domenico.

The trial was now begun, if trial that can be called which takes place in
the absence of the culprit or his representative.  It was rather the
hearing of charges against Christopher and his brothers; and we may be
sure that every discontented feeling in the island found voice and was
formulated into some incriminating charge.  Columbus was accused of
oppressing the Spanish settlers by making them work at harsh and
unnecessary labour; of cutting down their allowance of food, and
restricting their liberty; of punishing them cruelly and unduly; of
waging wars unjustly with the natives; of interfering with the conversion
of the natives by hastily collecting them and sending them home as
slaves; of having secreted treasures which should have been delivered to
the Sovereigns--this last charge, like some of the others, true.  He had
an accumulation of pearls of which he had given no account to Fonseca,
and the possession of which he excused by the queer statement that he was
waiting to announce it until he could match it with an equal amount of
gold!  He was accused of hating the Spaniards, who were represented as
having risen in the late rebellion in order to protect the natives and
avenge their own wrongs--, and generally of having abused his office in
order to enrich his own family and gratify his own feelings.  Bobadilla
appeared to believe all these charges; or perhaps he recognised their
nature, and yet saw that there was a sufficient degree of truth in them
to disqualify the Admiral in his position as Viceroy.  In all these
affairs his right-hand man was Roldan, whose loyalty to Columbus, as we
foresaw, had been short-lived.  Roldan collects evidence; Roldan knows
where he can lay his hands on this witness; Roldan produces this and that
proof; Roldan is here, there, and everywhere--never had Bobadilla found
such a useful, obliging man as Roldan.  With his help Bobadilla soon
collected a sufficient weight of evidence to justify in his own mind his
sending Columbus home to Spain, and remaining himself in command of the

The caravels having been made ready, and all the evidence drawn up and
documented, it only remained to embark the prisoners and despatch them to
Spain.  Columbus, sitting in his dungeon, suffering from gout and
ophthalmic as well as from misery and humiliation, had heard no news;
but he had heard the shouting of the people in the streets, the beating
of drums and blowing of horns, and his own name and that of his brothers
uttered in derision; and he made sure that he was going to be executed.
Alonso de Villegio, a nephew of Bishop Fonseca’s, had been appointed to
take charge of the ships returning to Spain; and when he came into the
prison the Admiral thought his last hour had come.

“Villegio,” he asked sadly, “where are you taking me?”

“I am taking you to the ship, your Excellency, to embark,” replied the

“To embark?” repeated the Admiral incredulously.  “Villegio! are you
speaking the truth?”

“By the life of your Excellency what I say is true,” was the reply, and
the news came with a wave of relief to the panic-stricken heart of the

In the middle of October the caravels sailed from San Domingo, and the
last sounds heard by Columbus from the land of his discovery were the
hoots and jeers and curses hurled after him by the treacherous,
triumphant rabble on the shore.  Villegio treated him and his brothers
with as much kindness as possible, and offered, when they had got well
clear of Espanola, to take off the Admiral’s chains.  But Columbus, with
a fine counterstroke of picturesque dignity, refused to have them
removed.  Already, perhaps, he had realised that his subjection to this
cruel and quite unnecessary indignity would be one of the strongest
things in his favour when he got to Spain, and he decided to suffer as
much of it as he could.  “My Sovereigns commanded me to submit to what
Bobadilla should order.  By his authority I wear these chains, and I
shall continue to wear them until they are removed by order of the
Sovereigns; and I will keep them afterwards as reminders of the reward I
have received for my services.”  Thus the Admiral, beginning to pick up
his spirits again, and to feel the better for the sea air.

The voyage home was a favourable one and in the course of it Columbus
wrote the following letter to a friend of his at Court, Dona Juana de la
Torre, who had been nurse to Prince Juan and was known by him to be a
favourite of the Queen:

     “MOST VIRTUOUS LADY,--Though my complaint of the world is new, its
     habit of ill-using is very ancient.  I have had a thousand struggles
     with it, and have thus far withstood them all, but now neither arms
     nor counsels avail me, and it cruelly keeps me under water.  Hope in
     the Creator of all men sustains me: His help was always very ready;
     on another occasion, and not long ago, when I was still more
     overwhelmed, He raised me with His right arm, saying, ‘O man of
     little faith, arise: it is I; be not afraid.’

     “I came with so much cordial affection to serve these Princes, and
     have served them with such service, as has never been heard of or

     “Of the new heaven and earth which our Lord made, when Saint John
     was writing the Apocalypse, after what was spoken by the mouth of
     Isaiah, He made me the messenger, and showed me where it lay.  In
     all men there was disbelief, but to the Queen, my Lady, He gave the
     spirit of understanding, and great courage, and made her heiress of
     all, as a dear and much loved daughter.  I went to take possession
     of all this in her royal name.  They sought to make amends to her
     for the ignorance they had all shown by passing over their little
     knowledge and talking of obstacles and expenses.  Her Highness, on
     the other hand, approved of it, and supported it as far as she was

     “Seven years passed in discussion and nine in execution.  During
     this time very remarkable and noteworthy things occurred whereof no
     idea at all had been formed.  I have arrived at, and am in, such a
     condition that there is no person so vile but thinks he may insult
     me: he shall be reckoned in the world as valour itself who is
     courageous enough not to consent to it.

     “If I were to steal the Indies or the land which lies towards them,
     of which I am now speaking, from the altar of Saint Peter, and give
     them to the Moors, they could not show greater enmity towards me in
     Spain.  Who would believe such a thing where there was always so
     much magnanimity?

     “I should have much desired to free myself from this affair had it
     been honourable towards my Queen to do so.  The support of our Lord
     and of her Highness made me persevere: and to alleviate in some
     measure the sorrows which death had caused her, I undertook a fresh
     voyage to the new heaven and earth which up to that time had
     remained hidden; and if it is not held there in esteem like the
     other voyages to the Indies, that is no wonder, because it came to
     be looked upon as my work.

     “The Holy Spirit inflamed Saint Peter and twelve others with him,
     and they all contended here below, and their toils and hardships
     were many, but last of all they gained the victory.

     “This voyage to Paria I thought would somewhat appease them on
     account of the pearls, and of the discovery of gold in Espanola.
     I ordered the pearls to be collected and fished for by people with
     whom an arrangement was made that I should return for them, and, as
     I understood, they were to be measured by the bushel.  If I did not
     write about this to their Highnesses, it was because I wished to
     have first of all done the same thing with the gold.

     “The result to me in this has been the same as in many other things;
     I should not have lost them nor my honour, if I had sought my own
     advantage, and had allowed Espanola to be ruined, or if my
     privileges and contracts had been observed.  And I say just the same
     about the gold which I had then collected, and [for] which with such
     great afflictions and toils I have, by divine power, almost
     perfected [the arrangements].

     “When I went from Paria I found almost half the people from Espanola
     in revolt, and they have waged war against me until now, as against
     a Moor; and the Indians on the other side grievously [harassed me].
     At this time Hojeda arrived and tried to put the finishing stroke:
     he said that their Highnesses had sent him with promises of gifts,
     franchises and pay: he gathered together a great band, for in the
     whole of Espanola there are very few save vagabonds, and not one
     with wife and children.  This Hojeda gave me great trouble; he was
     obliged to depart, and left word that he would soon return with more
     ships and people, and that he had left the Royal person of the
     Queen, our Lady, at the point of death.  Then Vincente Yanez arrived
     with four caravels; there was disturbance and mistrust but no
     mischief: the Indians talked of many others at the Cannibals
     [Caribbee Islands] and in Paria; and afterwards spread the news of
     six other caravels, which were brought by a brother of the Alcalde,
     but it was with malicious intent.  This occurred at the very last,
     when the hope that their Highnesses would ever send any ships to the
     Indies was almost abandoned, nor did we expect them; and it was
     commonly reported that her Highness was dead.

     “A certain Adrian about this time endeavoured to rise in rebellion
     again, as he had done previously, but our Lord did not permit his
     evil purpose to succeed.  I had purposed in myself never to touch a
     hair of anybody’s head, but I lament to say that with this man,
     owing to his ingratitude, it was not possible to keep that resolve
     as I had intended: I should not have done less to my brother, if he
     had sought to kill me, and steal the dominion which my King and
     Queen had given me in trust.

     “This Adrian, as it appears, had sent Don Ferdinand to Xaragua to
     collect some of his followers, and there a dispute arose with the
     Alcalde from which a deadly contest ensued, and he [Adrian] did not
     effect his purpose.  The Alcalde seized him and a part of his band,
     and the fact was that he would have executed them if I had not
     prevented it; they were kept prisoners awaiting a caravel in which
     they might depart.  The news of Hojeda which I told them made them
     lose the hope that he would now come again.

     “For six months I had been prepared to return to their Highnesses
     with the good news of the gold, and to escape from governing a
     dissolute people Who fear neither God nor their King and Queen,
     being full of vices and wickedness.

     “I could have paid the people in full with six hundred thousand, and
     for this purpose I had four millions of tenths and somewhat more,
     besides the third of the gold.

     “Before my departure I many times begged their Highnesses to send
     there, at my expense, some one to take charge of the administration
     of justice; and after finding the Alcalde in arms I renewed my
     supplications to have either some troops or at least some servant of
     theirs with letters patent; for my reputation is such that even if I
     build churches and hospitals, they will always be called dens of

     “They did indeed make provision at last, but it was the very
     contrary of what the matter demanded: it may be successful, since it
     was according to their good pleasure.

     “I was there for two years without being able to gain a decree of
     favour for myself or for those who went there, yet this man brought
     a coffer full: whether they will all redound to their [Highnesses]
     service, God knows.  Indeed, to begin with, there are exemptions for
     twenty years, which is a man’s lifetime; and gold is collected to
     such an extent that there was one person who became worth five marks
     in four hours; whereof I will speak more fully later on.

     “If it would please their Highnesses to remove the grounds of a
     common saying of those who know my labours, that the calumny of the
     people has done me more harm than much service and the maintenance
     of their [Highnesses] property and dominion has done me good, it
     would be a charity, and I should be re-established in my honour, and
     it would be talked about all over the world: for the undertaking is
     of such a nature that it must daily become more famous and in higher

     “When the Commander Bobadilla came to Santo Domingo, I was at La
     Vega, and the Adelantado at Xaragua, where that Adrian had made a
     stand, but then all was quiet, and the land rich and all men at
     peace.  On the second day after his arrival, he created himself
     Governor, and appointed officers and made executions, and proclaimed
     immunities of gold and tenths and in general of everything else for
     twenty years, which is a man’s lifetime, and that he came to pay
     everybody in full up to that day, even though they had not rendered
     service; and he publicly gave notice that, as for me, he had charge
     to send me in irons, and my brothers likewise, as he has done, and
     that I should nevermore return thither, nor any other of my family:
     alleging a thousand disgraceful and discourteous things about me.
     All this took place on the second day after his arrival, as I have
     said, and while I was absent at a distance, without my knowing
     either of him or of his arrival.

     “Some letters of their Highnesses signed in blank, of which he
     brought a number, he filled up and sent to the Alcalde and to his
     company with favours and commendations: to me he never sent either
     letter or messenger, nor has he done so to this day.  Imagine what
     any one holding my office would think when one who endeavoured to
     rob their Highnesses, and who has done so much evil and mischief, is
     honoured and favoured, while he who maintained it at such risks is

     “When I heard this I thought that this affair would be like that of
     Hojeda or one of the others, but I restrained myself when I learnt
     for certain from the friars that their Highnesses had sent him.  I
     wrote to him that his arrival was welcome, and that I was prepared
     to go to the Court and had sold all I possessed by auction; and that
     with respect to the immunities he should not be hasty, for both that
     matter and the government I would hand over to him immediately as
     smooth as my palm.  And I wrote to the same effect to the friars,
     but neither he nor they gave me any answer.  On the contrary, he put
     himself in a warlike attitude, and compelled all who went there to
     take an oath to him as Governor; and they told me that it was for
     twenty years.

     “Directly I knew of those immunities, I thought that I would repair
     such a great error and that he would be pleased, for he gave them
     without the need or occasion necessary in so vast a matter: and he
     gave to vagabond people what would have been excessive for a man who
     had brought wife and children.  So I announced by word and letters
     that he could not use his patents because mine were those in force;
     and I showed them the immunities which John Aguado brought.

     “All this was done by me in order to gain time, so that their
     Highnesses might be informed of the condition of the country, and
     that they might have an opportunity of issuing fresh commands as to
     what would best promote their service in that respect.

     “It is useless to publish such immunities in the Indies: to the
     settlers who have taken up residence it is a pure gain, for the best
     lands are given to them, and at a low valuation they will be worth
     two-hundred thousand at the end of the four years when the period of
     residence is ended, without their digging a spadeful in them.  I
     would not speak thus if the settlers were married, but there are not
     six among them all who are not on the look-out to gather what they
     can and depart speedily.  It would be a good thing if they should go
     from Castile, and also if it were known who and what they are, and
     if the country could be settled with honest people.

     “I had agreed with those settlers that they should pay the third of
     the gold, and the tenths, and this at their own request; and they
     received it as a great favour from their Highnesses.  I reproved
     them when I heard that they ceased to do this, and hoped that the
     Commander would do likewise, and he did the contrary.

     “He incensed them against me by saying that I wanted to deprive them
     of what their Highnesses had given them; and he endeavoured to set
     them at variance with me, and did so; and he induced them to write
     to their Highnesses that they should never again send me back to the
     government, and I likewise make the same supplication to them for
     myself and for my whole family, as long as there are not different
     inhabitants.  And he together with them ordered inquisitions
     concerning me for wickednesses the like whereof were never known in
     hell.  Our Lord, who rescued Daniel and the three children, is
     present with the same wisdom and power as He had then, and with the
     same means, if it should please Him and be in accordance with His

     “I should know how to remedy all this, and the rest of what has been
     said and has taken place since I have been in the Indies, if my
     disposition would allow me to seek my own advantage, and if it
     seemed honourable to me to do so, but the maintenance of justice and
     the extension of the dominion of her Highness has hitherto kept me
     down.  Now that so much gold is found, a dispute arises as to which
     brings more profit, whether to go about robbing or to go to the
     mines.  A hundred castellanos are as easily obtained for a woman as
     for a farm, and it is very general, and there are plenty of dealers
     who go about looking for girls: those from nine to ten are now in
     demand, and for all ages a good price must be paid.

     “I assert that the violence of the calumny of turbulent persons has
     injured me more than my services have profited me; which is a bad
     example for the present and for the future.  I take my oath that a
     number of men have gone to the Indies who did not deserve water in
     the sight of God and of the world; and now they are returning
     thither, and leave is granted them.

     “I assert that when I declared that the Commander could not grant
     immunities, I did what he desired, although I told him that it was
     to cause delay until their Highnesses should, receive information
     from the country, and should command anew what might be for their

     “He excited their enmity against me, and he seems, from what took
     place and from his behaviour, to have come as my enemy and as a very
     vehement one; or else the report is true that he has spent much to
     obtain this employment.  I do not know more about it than what I
     hear.  I never heard of an inquisitor gathering rebels together and
     accepting them, and others devoid of credit and unworthy of it, as
     witnesses against their Governor.

     “If their Highnesses were to make a general inquisition there, I
     assure you that they would look upon it as a great wonder that the
     island does not founder.

     “I think your Ladyship will remember that when, after losing my
     sails, I was driven into Lisbon by a tempest, I was falsely accused
     of having gone there to the King in order to give him the Indies.
     Their Highnesses afterwards learned the contrary, and that it was
     entirely malicious.

     “Although I may know but little, I do not think any one considers me
     so stupid as not to know that even if the Indies were mine I could
     not uphold myself without the help of some Prince.

     “If this be so, where could I find better support and security than
     in the King and Queen, our Lords, who have raised me from nothing to
     such great honour, and are the most exalted Princes of the world on
     sea and on land, and who consider that I have rendered them service,
     and who preserve to me my privileges and rewards: and if any one
     infringes them, their Highnesses increase them still more, as was
     seen in the case of John Aguado; and they order great honour to be
     conferred upon me, and, as I have already said, their Highnesses
     have received service from me, and keep my sons in their household;
     all which could by no means happen with another prince, for where
     there is no affection, everything else fails.

     “I have now spoken thus in reply to a malicious slander, but against
     my will, as it is a thing which should not recur to memory even in
     dreams; for the Commander Bobadilla maliciously seeks in this way to
     set his own conduct and actions in a brighter light; but I shall
     easily show him that his small knowledge and great cowardice,
     together with his inordinate cupidity, have caused him to fail

     “I have already said that I wrote to him and to the friars, and
     immediately set out, as I told him, almost alone, because all the
     people were with the Adelantado, and likewise in order to prevent
     suspicion on his part.  When he heard this, he seized Don Diego and
     sent him on board a caravel loaded with irons, and did the same to
     me upon my arrival, and afterwards to the Adelantado when he came;
     nor did I speak to him any more, nor to this day has he allowed any
     one to speak to me; and I take my oath that I cannot understand why
     I am made a prisoner.

     “He made it his first business to seize the gold, which he did
     without measuring or weighing it and in my absence; he said that he
     wanted it to pay the people, and according to what I hear he
     assigned the chief part to himself and sent fresh exchangers for the
     exchanges.  Of this gold I had put aside certain specimens, very big
     lumps, like the eggs of geese, hens, and pullets, and of many other
     shapes, which some persons had collected in a short space of time,
     in order that their Highnesses might be gladdened, and might
     comprehend the business upon seeing a quantity of large stones full
     of gold.  This collection was the first to be given away, with
     malicious intent, so that their Highnesses should not hold the
     matter in any account until he has feathered his nest, which he is
     in great haste to do.  Gold which is for melting diminishes at the
     fire: some chains which would weigh about twenty marks have never
     been seen again.

     “I have been more distressed about this matter of the gold than even
     about the pearls, because I have not brought it to her Highness.

     “The Commander at once set to work upon anything which he thought
     would injure me.  I have already said that with six hundred thousand
     I could pay every one without defrauding anybody, and that I had
     more than four millions of tenths and constabulary [dues] without
     touching the gold.  He made some free gifts which are ridiculous,
     though I believe that he began by assigning the chief part to
     himself.  Their Highnesses will find it out when they order an
     account to be obtained from him, especially if I should be present
     thereat.  He does nothing but reiterate that a large sum is owing,
     and it is what I have said, and even less.  I have been much
     distressed that there should be sent concerning me an inquisitor who
     is aware that if the inquisition which he returns is very grave he
     will remain in possession of the government.

     “Would that it had pleased our Lord that their Highnesses had sent
     him or some one else two years ago, for I know that I should now be
     free from scandal and infamy, and that my honour would not be taken
     from me, nor should I lose it.  God is just, and will make known the
     why and the wherefore.

     “They judge me over there as they would a governor who had gone to
     Sicily, or to a city or town placed under regular government, and
     where the laws can be observed in their entirety without fear of
     ruining everything; and I am greatly injured thereby.

     “I ought to be judged as a captain who went from Spain to the Indies
     to conquer a numerous and warlike people, whose customs and religion
     are very contrary to ours; who live in rocks and mountains, without
     fixed settlements, and not like ourselves: and where, by the Divine
     Will, I have placed under the dominion of the King and Queen, our
     Sovereigns, a second world, through which Spain, which was reckoned
     a poor country, has become the richest.

     “I ought to be judged as a captain who for such a long time up to
     this day has borne arms without laying them aside for an hour, and
     by gentlemen adventurers and by custom, and not by letters, unless
     they were from Greeks or Romans or others of modern times of whom
     there are so many and such noble examples in Spain; or otherwise I
     receive great injury, because in the Indies there is neither town
     nor settlement.

     “The gate to the gold and pearls is now open, and plenty of
     everything--precious stones, spices and a thousand other things--may
     be surely expected, and never could a worse misfortune befall me:
     for by the name of our Lord the first voyage would yield them just
     as much as would the traffic of Arabia Felix as far as Mecca, as I
     wrote to their Highnesses by Antonio de Tomes in my reply respecting
     the repartition of the sea and land with the Portuguese; and
     afterwards it would equal that of Calicut, as I told them and put in
     writing at the monastery of the Mejorada.

     “The news of the gold that I said I would give is, that on the day
     of the Nativity, while I was much tormented, being harassed by
     wicked Christians and by Indians, and when I was on the point of
     giving up everything, and if possible escaping from life, our Lord
     miraculously comforted me and said, ‘Fear not violence, I will
     provide for all things: the seven years of the term of the gold have
     not elapsed, and in that and in everything else I will afford thee a

     “On that day I learned that there were eighty leagues of land with
     mines at every point thereof.  The opinion now is that it is all
     one.  Some have collected a hundred and twenty castellanos in one
     day, and others ninety, and even the number of two hundred and fifty
     has been reached.  From fifty to seventy, and in many more cases
     from fifteen to fifty, is considered a good day’s work, and many
     carry it on.  The usual quantity is from six to twelve, and any one
     obtaining less than this is not satisfied. It seems to me that these
     mines are like others, and do not yield equally every day.  The
     mines are new, and so are the workers: it is the opinion of
     everybody that even if all Castile were to go there, every
     individual, however inexpert he might be, would not obtain less than
     one or two castellanos daily, and now it is only commencing.  It is
     true that they keep Indians, but the business is in the hands of the
     Christians.  Behold what discernment Bobadilla had, when he gave up
     everything for nothing, and four millions of tenths, without any
     reason or even being requested, and without first notifying it to
     their Highnesses.  And this is not the only loss.

     “I know that my errors have not been committed with the intention of
     doing evil, and I believe that their Highnesses regard the matter
     just as I state it: and I know and see that they deal mercifully
     even with those who maliciously act to their disservice.  I believe
     and consider it very certain that their clemency will be both
     greater and more abundant towards me, for I fell therein through
     ignorance and the force of circumstances, as they will know fully
     hereafter; and I indeed am their creature, and they will look upon
     my services, and will acknowledge day by day that they are much
     profited.  They will place everything in the balance, even as Holy
     Scripture tells us good and evil will be at the day of judgment.

     “If, however, they command that another person do judge me, which I
     cannot believe, and that it be by inquisition in the Indies, I very
     humbly beseech them to send thither two conscientious and honourable
     persons at my expense, who I believe will easily, now that gold is
     discovered, find five marks in four hours.  In either case it is
     needful for them to provide for this matter.

     “The Commander on his arrival at San Domingo took up his abode in my
     house, and just as he found it so he appropriated everything to
     himself.  Well and good; perhaps he was in want of it.  A pirate
     never acted thus towards a merchant.  About my papers I have a
     greater grievance, for he has so completely deprived me of them that
     I have never been able to obtain a single one from him; and those
     that would have been most useful in my exculpation are precisely
     those which he has kept most concealed.  Behold the just and honest
     inquisitor!  Whatever he may have done, they tell me that there has
     been an end to justice, except in an arbitrary form.  God, our Lord,
     is present with His strength and wisdom, as of old, and always
     punishes in the end, especially ingratitude and injuries.”

We must keep in mind the circumstances in which this letter was written
if we are to judge it and the writer wisely.  It is a sad example of
querulous complaint, in which everything but the writer’s personal point
of view is ignored.  No one indeed is more terrible in this world than
the Man with a Grievance.  How rarely will human nature in such
circumstances retire into the stronghold of silence!  Columbus is asking
for pity; but as we read his letter we incline to pity him on grounds
quite different from those which he represented.  He complains that the
people he was sent to govern have waged war against him as against a
Moor; he complains of Ojeda and of Vincenti Yanez Pinzon; of Adrian de
Moxeca, and of every other person whom it was his business to govern and
hold in restraint.  He complains of the colonists--the very people, some
of them, whom he himself took and impressed from the gaols and purlieus
of Cadiz; and then he mingles pious talk about Saint Peter and Daniel in
the den of lions with notes on the current price of little girls and big
lumps of gold like the eggs of geese, hens, and pullets.  He complains
that he is judged as a man would be judged who had been sent out to
govern a ready-made colony, and represents instead that he went out to
conquer a numerous and warlike people “whose custom and religion are very
contrary to ours, and who lived in rocks and mountains”; forgetting that
when it suited him for different purposes he described the natives as so
peaceable and unwarlike that a thousand of them would not stand against
one Christian, and that in any case he was sent out to create a
constitution and not merely to administer one.  Very sore indeed is
Christopher as he reveals himself in this letter, appealing now to his
correspondent, now to the King and Queen, now to that God who is always
on the side of the complainant.  “God our Lord is present with His
strength and wisdom, as of old, and always punishes in the end,
especially ingratitude and injuries.”  Not boastfulness and weakness, let
us hope, or our poor Admiral will come off badly.



Columbus was not far wrong in his estimate of the effect likely to be
produced by his manacles, and when the ships of Villegio arrived at Cadiz
in October, the spectacle of an Admiral in chains produced a degree of
commiseration which must have exceeded his highest hopes.  He was now in
his fiftieth year and of an extremely venerable appearance, his kindling
eye looking forth from under brows of white, his hair and beard
snow-white, his face lined and spiritualised with suffering and sorrow.
It must be remembered that before the Spanish people he had always
appeared in more or less state.  They had not that intimacy with him, an
intimacy which perhaps brought contempt, which the people in Espanola
enjoyed; and in Spain, therefore, the contrast between his former
grandeur and this condition of shame and degradation was the more
striking.  It was a fact that the people of Spain could not neglect. It
touched their sense of the dramatic and picturesque, touched their
hearts also perhaps--hearts quick to burn, quick to forget.  They had
forgotten him before, now they burned with indignation at the picture of
this venerable and much-suffering man arriving in disgrace.

His letter to Dofia Juana, hastily despatched by him, probably through
the office of some friendly soul on board, immediately on his arrival at
Cadiz, was the first news from the ship received by the King and Queen,
and naturally it caused them a shock of surprise.  It was followed by the
despatches from Bobadilla and by a letter from the Alcalde of Cadiz
announcing that Columbus and his brothers were in his custody awaiting
the royal orders.  Perhaps Ferdinand and Isabella had already repented
their drastic action and had entertained some misgivings as to its
results; but it is more probable that they had put it out of their heads
altogether, and that their hasty action now was prompted as much by the
shock of being recalled to a consciousness of the troubled state of
affairs in the New World as by any real regret for what they had done.
Moreover they had sent out Bobadilla to quiet things down; and the first
result of it was that Spain was ringing with the scandal of the Admiral’s
treatment.  In that Spanish world, unsteadfast and unstable, when one end
of the see-saw was up the other must be down; and it was Columbus who now
found himself high up in the heavens of favour, and Bobadilla who was
seated in the dust.  Equipoise any kind was apparently a thing
impossible; if one man was right the other man must be wrong; no excuses
for Bobadilla; every excuse for the Admiral.

The first official act, therefore, was an order for the immediate release
of the Admiral and his brothers, followed by an invitation for him to
proceed without delay to the Court at Granada, and an order for the
immediate payment to him of the sum of 2000 ducats [perhaps $250,000 in
the year 2000  D.W.] this last no ungenerous gift to a Viceroy whose
pearl accounts were in something less than order.  Perhaps Columbus had
cherished the idea of appearing dramatically before the very Court in his
rags and chains; but the cordiality of their letter as well as the gift
of money made this impossible.  Instead, not being a man to do things by
halves, he equipped himself in his richest and most splendid garments,
got together the requisite number of squires and pages, and duly
presented himself at Granada in his full dignity.  The meeting was an
affecting one, touched with a humanity which has survived the intervening
centuries, as a touch of true humanity will when details of mere parade
and etiquette have long perished.  Perhaps the Admiral, inspired with a
deep sense of his wrongs, meant to preserve a very stiff and cold
demeanour at the beginning of this interview; but when he looked into the
kind eyes of Isabella and saw them suffused with tears at the thought of
his sorrows all his dignity broke down; the tears came to his own eyes,
and he wept there naturally like a child.  Ferdinand looking on kind but
uncomfortable; Isabella unaffectedly touched and weeping; the Admiral, in
spite of his scarlet cloak and golden collar and jewelled sword, in spite
of equerries, squires, pages and attendants, sobbing on his knees like a
child or an old man-these were the scenes and kindly emotions of this
historic moment.

The tears were staunched by kindly royal words and handkerchiefs supplied
by attendant pages; sobbings breaking out again, but on the whole soon
quieted; King and Queen raising the gouty Christopher from his knees,
filling the air with kind words of sympathy, praise, and encouragement;
the lonely worn heart, somewhat arid of late, and parched from want of
human sympathy, much refreshed by this dew of kindness.  The Admiral was
soon himself again, and he would not have been himself if upon recovering
he had not launched out into what some historians call a “lofty and
dignified vindication of his loyalty and zeal.”  No one, indeed, is
better than the Admiral at such lofty and dignified vindications.  He
goes into the whole matter and sets forth an account of affairs at
Espanola from his own point of view; and can even (so high is the
thermometer of favour) safely indulge in a little judicious
self-depreciation, saying that if he has erred it has not been from want
of zeal but from want of experience in dealing with the kind of material
he has been set to govern.  All this is very human, natural, and
understandable; product of that warm emotional atmosphere, bedewed with
tears, in which the Admiral finds himself; and it is not long before the
King and Queen, also moved to it by the emotional temperature, are
expressing their unbroken and unbounded confidence in him and
repudiating the acts of Bobadilla, which they declare to have been
contrary to their instructions; undertaking also that he shall be
immediately dismissed from his post.  Poor Bobadilla is not here in the
warm emotional atmosphere; he had his turn of it six months ago, when no
powers were too high or too delicate to be entrusted to him; he is out
in the cold at the other end of the see-saw, which has let him down to
the ground with a somewhat sudden thump.

Columbus, relying on the influence of these emotions, made bold to ask
that his property in the island should be restored to him, which was
immediately granted; and also to request that he should be reinstated in
his office of Viceroy and allowed to return at once in triumph to
Espanola.  But emotions are unstable things; they present a yielding
surface which will give to any extent, but which, when it has hardened
again after the tears have evaporated, is often found to be in much the
same condition as before.  At first promises were made that the whole
matter should be fully gone into; but when it came to cold fact,
Ferdinand was obliged to recognise that this whole business of discovery
and colonisation had become a very different thing to what it had been
when Columbus was the only discoverer; and he was obviously of opinion
that, as Columbus’s office had once been conveniently withdrawn from him,
it would only be disastrous to reinstate him in it.  Of course he did not
say so at once; but reasons were given for judicious delay in the
Admiral’s reappointment.  It was represented to him that the colony,
being in an extremely unsettled state, should be given a short period of
rest, and also that it would be as well for him to wait until the people
who had given him so much trouble in the island could be quietly and
gradually removed.  Two years was the time mentioned as suitable for an
interregnum, and it is probable that it was the intention of Isabella,
although not of Ferdinand, to restore Columbus to his office at the end
of that time.

In the meantime it became necessary to appoint some one to supersede
Bobadilla; for the news that arrived periodically from Espanola during
the year showed that he had entirely failed in his task of reducing the
island to order.  For the wholesome if unequal rigours of Columbus
Bobadilla had substituted laxness and indulgence, with the result that
the whole colony was rapidly reduced to a state of the wildest disorder.
Vice and cruelty were rampant; in fact the barbarities practised upon the
natives were so scandalous that even Spanish opinion, which was never
very sympathetic to heathen suffering, was thoroughly shocked and
alarmed.  The Sovereigns therefore appointed Nicholas de Ovando to go out
and take over the command, with instructions to use very drastic means
for bringing the colony to order.  How he did it we shall presently see;
in the meantime all that was known of him (the man not having been tried
yet) was that he was a poor knight of Calatrava, a man respected in royal
circles for the performance of minor official duties, but no very popular
favourite; honest according to his lights--lights turned rather low and
dim, as was often the case in those days.  A narrow-minded man also,
without sympathy or imagination, capable of cruelty; a tough,
stiff-necked stock of a man, fit to deal with Bobadilla perhaps, but
hardly fit to deal with the colony.  Spain in those days was not a
nursery of administration.  Of all the people who were sent out
successively to govern Espanola and supersede one another, the only one
who really seems to have had the necessary natural ability, had he but
been given the power, was Bartholomew Columbus; but unfortunately things
were in such a state that the very name of Columbus was enough to bar a
man from acceptance as a governor of Espanola.

It was not for any lack of powers and equipment that this procession of
governors failed in their duties.  We have seen with what authority
Bobadilia had been entrusted; and Ovando had even greater advantages.
The instructions he received showed that the needs of the new colonies
were understood by Ferdinand and Isabella, if by no one else.  Ovando was
not merely appointed Governor of Espanola but of the whole of the new
territory discovered in the west, his seat of government being San
Domingo.  He was given the necessary free hand in the matters of
punishment, confiscation, and allotment of lands.  He was to revoke the
orders which had been made by Bobadilla reducing the proportion of gold
payable to the Crown, and was empowered to take over one-third of the.
gold that was stored on the island, and one-half of what might be found
in the future.  The Crown was to have a monopoly of all trade, and
ordinary supplies were only to be procured through the Crown agent.
On the other hand, the natives were to be released from slavery, and
although forced to work in the mines, were to be paid for their labour
--a distinction which in the working out did not produce much difference.
A body of Franciscan monks accompanied Ovando for the purpose of tackling
the religious question with the necessary energy; and every regulation
that the kind heart of Isabella could think of was made for the happiness
and contentment of the Indians.

Unhappily the real mischief had already been done.  The natives, who had
never been accustomed to hard and regular work under the conditions of
commerce and greed, but had only toiled for the satisfaction of their own
simple wants, were suffering cruelly under the hard labour in the mines,
and the severe driving of their Spanish masters.  Under these unnatural
conditions the native population was rapidly dying off, and there was
some likelihood that there would soon be a scarcity of native labour.
These were the circumstances in which the idea of importing black African
labour to the New World was first conceived--a plan which was destined to
have results so tremendous that we have probably not yet seen their full
and ghastly development.  There were a great number of African negro
slaves at that time in Spain; a whole generation of them had been born in
slavery in Spain itself; and this generation was bodily imported to
Espanola to relieve and assist the native labour.

These preparations were not made all at once; and it was more than a year
after the return of Columbus before Ovando was ready to sail.  In the
meantime Columbus was living in Granada, and looking on with no very
satisfied eye at the plans which were being made to supersede him, and
about which he was probably not very much consulted; feeling very sore
indeed, and dividing his attention between the nursing of his grievances
and other even less wholesome occupations.  There was any amount of
smiling kindness for him at Court, but very little of the satisfaction
that his vanity and ambition craved; and in the absence of practical
employment he fell back on visionary speculations.  He made great friends
at this time with a monk named Gaspar Gorricio, with whose assistance he
began to make some kind of a study of such utterances of the Prophets and
the Fathers as he conceived to have a bearing on his own career.

Columbus was in fact in a very queer way at this time; and what with his
readings and his meditatings and his grievances, and his visits to his
monkish friend in the convent of Las Cuevas, he fell into a kind of
intellectual stupor, of which the work called ‘Libro de las Profecias,’
or Book of the Prophecies, in which he wrote down such considerations as
occurred to him in his stupor, was the result.  The manuscript of this
work is in existence, although no human being has ever ventured to
reprint the whole of it; and we would willingly abstain from mentioning
it here if it were not an undeniable act of Columbus’s life.  The
Admiral, fallen into theological stupor, puts down certain figures upon
paper; discovers that St. Augustine said that the world would only last
for 7000 years; finds that some other genius had calculated that before
the birth of Christ it had existed for 5343 years and 318 days; adds 1501
years from the birth of Christ to his own time; adds up, and finds that
the total is 6844 years; subtracts, and discovers that this earthly globe
can only last 155 years longer.  He remembers also that, still according
to the Prophets, certain things must happen before the end of the world;
Holy Sepulchre restored to Christianity, heathen converted, second coming
of Christ; and decides that he himself is the man appointed by God and
promised by the Prophets to perform these works.  Good Heavens! in what
an entirely dark and sordid stupor is our Christopher now sunk--a
veritable slough and quag of stupor out of which, if he does not manage
to flounder himself, no human hand can pull him.

But amid his wallowings in this slough of stupor, when all else, in him
had been well-nigh submerged by it, two dim lights were preserved towards
which, although foundered up to the chin, he began to struggle; and by
superhuman efforts did at last extricate himself from the theological
stupor and get himself blown clean again by the salt winds before he
died.  One light was his religion; not to be confounded with theological
stupor, but quite separate from it in my belief; a certain steadfast and
consuming faith in a Power that could see and understand and guide him to
the accomplishment of his purpose.  This faith had been too often a good
friend and help to Christopher for him to forget it very long, even while
he was staggering in the quag with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Fathers; and
gradually, as I say, he worked himself out into the region of activity
again.  First, thinking it a pity that his flounderings in the slough
should be entirely wasted, he had a copy of his precious theological work
made and presented it to the Sovereigns, with a letter urging them (since
he himself was unable to do it) to undertake a crusade for the recovery
of the Holy Sepulchre--not an altogether wild proposal in those days.
But Ferdinand had other uses for his men and his money, and contented
himself with despatching Peter Martyr on a pacific mission to the Grand
Soldan of Egypt.

The other light left unquenched in Columbus led him back to the firm
ground of maritime enterprise; he began to long for the sea again, and
for a chance of doing something to restore his reputation.  An infinitely
better and more wholesome frame of mind this; by all means let him mend
his reputation by achievement, instead of by writing books in a
theological trance or stupor, and attempting to prove that he was chosen
by the Almighty.  He now addressed himself to the better task of getting
himself chosen by men to do something which should raise him again in
their esteem.

His maritime ambition was no doubt stimulated at this time by witnessing
the departure of Ovando, in February 1502, with a fleet of thirty-five
ships and a company of 2500 people.  It was not in the Admiral’s nature
to look on without envy at an equipment the like of which he himself had
never been provided with, and he did not restrain his sarcasms at its
pomp and grandeur, nor at the ease with which men could follow a road
which had once been pointed out to them.  Ovando had a great body-guard
such as Columbus had never had; and he also carried with him a great
number of picked married men with their families, all with knowledge of
some trade or craft, whose presence in the colony would be a guarantee
of permanence and steadiness.  He perhaps remembered his own crowd of
ruffians and gaol-birds, and realised the bitterness of his own mistakes.
It was a very painful moment for him, and he was only partially
reconciled to it by the issue of a royal order to Ovando under which he
was required to see to the restoration of the Admiral’s property.  If it
had been devoted to public purposes it was to be repaid him from the
royal funds; but if it had been merely distributed among the colonists
Bobadilla was to be made responsible for it.  The Admiral was also
allowed to send out an agent to represent him and look after his
interests; and he appointed Alonso de Carvajal to this office.

Ovando once gone, the Admiral could turn again to his own affairs.
It is true there were rumours that the whole fleet had perished, for it
encountered a gale very soon after leaving Cadiz, and a great quantity of
the deck hamper was thrown overboard and was washed on the shores of
Spain; and the Sovereigns were so bitterly distressed that, as it is
said, they shut them selves up for eight days.  News eventually came,
however, that only one ship had been lost and that the rest had proceeded
safely to San Domingo.  Columbus, much recovered in body and mind, now
began to apply for a fleet for himself.  He had heard of the discovery by
the Portuguese of the southern route to India; no doubt he had heard also
much gossip of the results of the many private voyages of discovery that
were sailing from Spain at this time; and he began to think seriously
about his own discoveries and the way in which they might best be
extended.  He thought much of his voyage to the west of Trinidad and of
the strange pent-up seas and currents that he had discovered there.  He
remembered the continual westward trend of the current, and how all the
islands in that sea had their greatest length east and west, as though
their shores had been worn into that shape by the constant flowing of the
current; and it was not an unnatural conclusion for him to suppose that
there was a channel far to the west through which these seas poured and
which would lead him to the Golden Chersonesus.  He put away from him
that nightmare madness that he transacted on the coast of Cuba.  He knew
very well that he had not yet found the Golden Chersonesus and the road
to India; but he became convinced that the western current would lead him
there if only he followed it long enough.  There was nothing insane about
this theory; it was in fact a very well-observed and well-reasoned
argument; and the fact that it happened to be entirely wrong is no
reflection on the Admiral’s judgment.  The great Atlantic currents at
that time had not been studied; and how could he know that the western
stream of water was the northern half of a great ocean current which
sweeps through the Caribbean Sea, into and round the Gulf of Mexico, and
flows out northward past Florida in the Gulf Stream?

His applications for a fleet were favourably received by the King and
Queen, but much frowned upon by certain high officials of the Court.
They were beginning to regard Columbus as a dangerous adventurer who,
although he happened to have discovered the western islands, had brought
the Spanish colony there to a dreadful state of disorder; and had also,
they alleged, proved himself rather less than trustworthy in matters of
treasure.  Still in the summer days of 1501 he was making himself very
troublesome at Court with constant petitions and letters about his rights
and privileges; and Ferdinand was far from unwilling to adopt a plan by
which they would at least get rid of him and keep him safely occupied at
the other side of the world at the cost of a few caravels.  There was,
besides, always an element of uncertainty.  His voyage might come to
nothing, but on the other hand the Admiral was no novice at this game of
discovery, and one could not tell but that something big might come of
it.  After some consideration permission was given to him to fit out a
fleet of four ships, and he proceeded to Seville in the autumn of 1501
to get his little fleet ready.  Bartholomew was to come with him, and his
son Ferdinand also, who seems to have much endeared himself to the
Admiral in these dark days, and who would surely be a great comfort to
him on the voyage.  Beatriz Enriquez seems to have passed out of his
life; certainly he was not living with her either now or on his last
visit to Spain; one way or another, that business is at an end for him.
Perhaps poor Beatriz, seeing her son in such a high place at Court, has
effaced herself for his sake; perhaps the appointment was given on
condition of such effacement; we do not know.

Columbus was in no hurry over his preparations.  In the midst of them he
found time to collect a whole series of documents relating to his titles
and dignities, which he had copied and made into a great book which he
called his “Book of Privileges,” and the copies of which were duly
attested before a notary at Seville on January 5, 1502.  He wrote many
letters to various friends of his, chiefly in relation to these
privileges; not interesting or illuminating letters to us, although very
important to busy Christopher when he wrote them.  Here is one written to
Nicolo Oderigo, a Genoese Ambassador who came to Spain on a brief mission
in the spring of 1502, and who, with certain other residents in Spain, is
said to have helped Columbus in his preparations for his fourth voyage:

     “Sir,--The loneliness in which you have left us cannot be described.
     I gave the book containing my writings to Francisco de Rivarol that
     he may send it to you with another copy of letters containing
     instructions.  I beg you to be so kind as to write Don Diego in
     regard to the place of security in which you put them.  Duplicates
     of everything will be completed and sent to you in the same manner
     and by the same Francisco.  Among them you will find a new document.
     Their Highnesses promised to give all that belongs to me and to
     place Don Diego in possession of everything, as you will see.  I
     wrote to Senor Juan Luis and to Sefora Catalina.  The letter
     accompanies this one.  I am ready to start in the name of the Holy
     Trinity as soon as the weather is good.  I am well provided with
     everything.  If Jeronimo de Santi Esteban is coming, he must await
     me and not embarrass himself with anything, for they will take away
     from him all they can and silently leave him.  Let him come here and
     the King and the Queen will receive him until I come.  May our Lord
     have you in His holy keeping.

               “Done at Seville, March 21, 1502.
               “At your command.

                                                  Xpo FERENS.”

His delays were not pleasing to Ferdinand, who wanted to get rid of him,
and he was invited to hurry his departure; but he still continued to go
deliberately about his affairs, which he tried to put in order as far as
he was able, since he thought it not unlikely that he might never see
Spain again.  Thinking thus of his worldly duties, and his thoughts
turning to his native Genoa, it occurred to him to make some benefaction
out of the riches that were coming to him by which his name might be
remembered and held in honour there.  This was a piece of practical
kindness the record of which is most precious to us; for it shows the
Admiral in a truer and more human light than he often allowed to shine
upon him.  The tone of the letter is nothing; he could not forbear
letting the people of Genoa see how great he was.  The devotion of his
legacy to the reduction of the tax on simple provisions was a genuine
charity, much to be appreciated by the dwellers in the Vico Dritto di
Ponticello, where wine and provision shops were so very necessary to
life.  The letter was written to the Directors of the famous Bank of
Saint George at Genoa.

     “VERY NOBLE LORDS,--Although my body is here, my heart is
     continually yonder.  Our Lord has granted me the greatest favour he
     has granted any one since the time of David.  The results of my
     undertaking already shine, and they would make a great light if the
     obscurity of the Government did not conceal them.  I shall go again
     to the Indies in the name of the Holy Trinity, to return
     immediately.  And as I am mortal, I desire my son Don Diego to give
     to you each year, for ever, the tenth part of all the income
     received, in payment of the tax on wheat, wine, and other
     provisions.  If this tenth amounts to anything, receive it, and if
     not, receive my will for the deed.  I beg you as a favour to have
     this son of mine in your charge.  Nicolo de Oderigo knows more about
     my affairs than I myself.  I have sent him the copy of my privileges
     and letters, that he may place them in safe keeping.  I would be
     glad if you could see them.  The King and the Queen, my Lords, now
     wish to honour me more than ever.  May the Holy Trinity guard your
     noble persons, and increase the importance of your very magnificent
               “Done in Seville, April a, 1502.

     “The High-Admiral of the Ocean-Sea and Viceroy and Governor-General
     of the islands and mainland of Asia and the Indies, belonging to the
     King and Queen, my Lords, and the Captain-General of the Sea, and a
     Member of their Council.

                                              X M Y
                                            Xpo FERENS.”

Columbus was anxious to touch at Espanola on his voyage to the West; but
he was expressly forbidden to do so, as it was known that his presence
there could not make for anything but confusion; he was to be permitted,
however, to touch there on his return journey.  The Great Khan was not
out of his mind yet; much in it apparently, for he took an Arabian
interpreter with him so that he could converse with that monarch.  In
fact he did not hesitate to announce that very big results indeed were to
come of this voyage of his; among other things he expected to
circumnavigate the globe, and made no secret of his expectation.  In the
meantime he was expected to find some pearls in order to pay for the
equipment of his fleet; and in consideration of what had happened to the
last lot of pearls collected by him, an agent named Diego de Porras was
sent along with him to keep an account of the gold and precious stones
which might be discovered.  Special instructions were issued to Columbus
about the disposal of these commodities.  He does not seem to have minded
these somewhat humiliating precautions; he had a way of rising above
petty indignities and refusing to recognise them which must have been of
great assistance to his self-respect in certain troubled moments in his

His delays, however, were so many that in March 1502 the Sovereigns were
obliged to order him to depart without any more waiting.  Poor
Christopher, who once had to sue for the means with which to go, whose
departures were once the occasion of so much state and ceremony, has now
to be hustled forth and asked to go away.  Still he does not seem to
mind; once more, as of old, his gaze is fixed beyond the horizon and his
mind is filled with one idea.  They may not think much of him in Spain
now, but they will when he comes back; and he can afford to wait.
Completing his preparations without undignified haste he despatched
Bartholomew with his four little vessels from Seville to Cadiz, where the
Admiral was to join them.  He took farewell of his son Diego and of his
brother James; good friendly James, who had done his best in a difficult
position, but had seen quite enough of the wild life of the seas and was
now settled in Seville studying hard for the Church.  It had always been
his ambition, poor James; and, studying hard in Seville, he did in time
duly enter the sacred pale and become a priest--by which we may see that
if our ambitions are only modest enough we may in time encompass them.
Sometimes I think that James, enveloped in priestly vestments, nodding in
the sanctuary, lulled by the muttering murmur of the psalms or dozing
through a long credo, may have thought himself back amid the brilliant
sunshine and strange perfumes of Espanola; and from a dream of some nymph
hiding in the sweet groves of the Vega may have awakened with a sigh to
the strident Alleluias of his brother priests.  At any rate, farewell to
James, safely seated beneath the Gospel light, and continuing to sit
there until, in the year 1515, death interrupts him.  We are not any more
concerned with James in his priestly shelter, but with those elder
brothers of his who are making ready again to face the sun and the

Columbus’s ships were on the point of sailing when word came that the
Moors were besieging a Portuguese post on the coast of Morocco, and, as
civility was now the order of the day between Spain and Portugal, the
Admiral was instructed to call on his way there and afford some relief.
This he did, sailing from Cadiz on the 9th or 10th of May to Ercilla on
the Morocco coast, where he anchored on the 13th.  But the Moors had all
departed and the siege was over; so Columbus, having sent Bartholomew and
some of his officers ashore on a civil visit, which was duly returned,
set out the same day on his last voyage.



The four ships that made up the Admiral’s fleet on his fourth and last
voyage were all small caravels, the largest only of seventy tons and the
smallest only of fifty.  Columbus chose for his flagship the Capitana,
seventy tons, appointing Diego Tristan to be his captain.  The next best
ship was the Santiago de Palos under the command of Francisco Porras;
Porras and his brother Diego having been more or less foisted on to
Columbus by Morales, the Royal Treasurer, who wished to find berths for
these two brothers-in-law of his.  We shall hear more of the Porras
brothers.  The third ship was the Gallega, sixty tons, a very bad sailer
indeed, and on that account entrusted to Bartholomew Columbus, whose
skill in navigation, it was hoped, might make up for her bad sailing
qualities.  Bartholomew had, to tell the truth, had quite enough of the
New World, but he was too loyal to Christopher to let him go alone,
knowing as he did his precarious state of health and his tendency to
despondency.  The captain of the Gallega was Pedro de Terreros, who had
sailed with the Admiral as steward on all his other voyages and was now
promoted to a command.  The fourth ship was called the Vizcaina, fifty
tons, and was commanded by Bartolome Fieschi, a friend of Columbus’s from
Genoa, and a very sound, honourable man.  There were altogether 143 souls
on board the four caravels.

The fleet as usual made the Canary Islands, where they arrived on the
20th of May, and stopped for five days taking in wood and water and fresh
provisions.  Columbus was himself again--always more himself at sea than
anywhere else; he was following a now familiar road that had no
difficulties or dangers for him; and there is no record of the voyage out
except that it was quick and prosperous, with the trade wind blowing so
steadily that from the time they left the Canaries until they made land
twenty days later they had hardly to touch a sheet or a halliard.  The
first land they made was the island of Martinique, where wood and water
were taken in and the men sent ashore to wash their linen.  To young
Ferdinand, but fourteen years old, this voyage was like a fairy tale come
true, and his delight in everything that he saw must have added greatly
to Christopher’s pleasure and interest in the voyage.  They only stayed a
few days at Martinique and then sailed westward along the chain of
islands until they came to Porto Rico, where they put in to the sunny
harbour which they had discovered on a former voyage.

It was at this point that Columbus determined, contrary to his precise
orders, to stand across to Espanola.  The place attracted him like a
magnet; he could not keep away from it; and although he had a good enough
excuse for touching there, it is probable that his real reason was a very
natural curiosity to see how things were faring with his old enemy
Bobadilla.  The excuse was that the Gallega, Bartholomew’s ship, was so
unseaworthy as to be a drag on the progress of the rest of the fleet and
a danger to her own crew.  In the slightest sea-way she rolled almost
gunwale under, and would not carry her sail; and Columbus’s plan was to
exchange her for a vessel out of the great fleet which he knew had by
this time reached Espanola and discharged its passengers.

He arrived off the harbour of San Domingo on the 29th of June in very
threatening weather, and immediately sent Pedro de Terreros ashore with a
message to Ovando, asking to be allowed to purchase or exchange one of
the vessels that were riding in the harbour, and also leave to shelter
his own vessels there during the hurricane which he believed to be
approaching.  A message came back that he was neither permitted to buy a
ship nor to enter the harbour; warning him off from San Domingo, in fact.

With this unfavourable message Terreros also brought back the news of the
island.  Ovando had been in San Domingo since the 15th of April, and had
found the island in a shocking state, the Spanish population having to a
man devoted itself to idleness, profligacy, and slave-driving.  The only
thing that had prospered was the gold-mining; for owing to the licence
that Bobadilla had given to the Spaniards to employ native labour to an
unlimited extent there had been an immense amount of gold taken from the
mines.  But in no other respect had island affairs prospered, and Ovando
immediately began the usual investigation.  The fickle Spaniards, always
unfaithful to whoever was in authority over them, were by this time tired
of Bobadilla, in spite of his leniency, and they hailed the coming of
Ovando and his numerous equipment with enthusiasm.  Bobadilla had also by
this time, we may suppose, had enough of the joys of office; at any rate
he showed no resentment at the coming of the new Governor, and handed
over the island with due ceremony.  The result of the investigation of
Ovando, however, was to discover a state of things requiring exemplary
treatment; friend Roldan was arrested, with several of his allies, and
put on board one of the ships to be sent back to Spain for trial.  The
cacique Guarionex, who had been languishing in San Domingo in chains for
a long time, was also embarked on one of the returning ships; and about
eighteen hundred-weights of gold which had been collected were also
stowed into cases and embarked.  Among this gold there was a nugget
weighing 35 lbs. which had been found by a native woman in a river, and
which Ovando was sending home as a personal offering to his Sovereigns;
and some further 40 lbs. of gold belonging to Columbus, which Carvajal
had recovered and placed in a caravel to be taken to Spain for the
Admiral.  The ships were all ready to sail, and were anchored off the
mouth of the river when Columbus arrived in San Domingo.

When he found that he was not to be allowed to enter the harbour himself
Columbus sent a message to Ovando warning him that a hurricane was coming
on, and begging him to take measures for the safety of his large fleet.
This, however, was not done, and the fleet put to sea that evening.  It
had only got so far as the eastern end of Espanola when the hurricane, as
predicted by Columbus, duly came down in the manner of West Indian
hurricanes, a solid wall of wind and an advancing wave of the sea which
submerged everything in its path.  Columbus’s little fleet, finding
shelter denied them, had moved a little way along the coast, the Admiral
standing close in shore, the others working to the south for sea-room;
and although they survived the hurricane they were scattered, and only
met several days later, in an extremely battered condition, at the
westerly end of the island.  But the large home-going fleet had not
survived.  The hurricane, which was probably from the north-east, struck
them just as they lost the lee of the island, and many of them, including
the ships with the treasure of gold and the caravels bearing Roldan,
Bobadilla, and Guarionex, all went down at once and were never seen or
heard of again.  Other ships survived for a little while only to founder
in the end; a few, much shattered, crept back to the shelter of San
Domingo; but only one, it is said, survived the hurricane so well as to
be able to proceed to Spain; and that was the one which carried Carvajal
and Columbus’s little property of gold.  The Admiral’s luck again; or the
intervention of the Holy Trinity--whichever you like.

After the shattering experience of the storm, Columbus, although he did
not return to San Domingo, remained for some time on the coast of
Espanola repairing his ships and resting his exhausted crews.  There were
threatenings of another storm which delayed them still further, and it
was not until the middle of July that the Admiral was able to depart on
the real purpose of his voyage.  His object was to strike the mainland
far to the westward of the Gulf of Paria, and so by following it back
eastward to find the passage which he believed to exist.  But the winds
and currents were very baffling; he was four days out of sight of land
after touching at an island north of Jamaica; and finally, in some
bewilderment, he altered his course more and more northerly until he
found his whereabouts by coming in sight of the archipelago off the
south-western end of Cuba which he had called the Gardens.  From here he
took a departure south-west, and on the 30th of July came in sight of a
small island off the northern coast of Honduras which he called Isla de
Pinos, and from which he could see the hills of the mainland.  At this
island he found a canoe of immense size with a sort of house or caboose
built amidships, in which was established a cacique with his family and
dependents; and the people in the canoe showed signs of more advanced
civilisation than any seen by Columbus before in these waters.  They wore
clothing, they had copper hatchets, and bells, and palm-wood swords in
the edges of which were set sharp blades of flint.  They had a fermented
liquor, a kind of maize beer which looked like English ale; they had some
kind of money or medium of exchange also, and they told the Admiral that
there was land to the west where all these things existed and many more.
It is strange and almost inexplicable that he did not follow this trail
to the westward; if he had done so he would have discovered Mexico.  But
one thing at a time always occupied him to the exclusion of everything
else; his thoughts were now turned to the eastward, where he supposed the
Straits were; and the significance of this canoe full of natives was lost
upon him.

They crossed over to the mainland of Honduras on August 15th, Bartholomew
landing and attending mass on the beach as the Admiral himself was too
ill to go ashore.  Three days later the cross and banner of Castile were
duly erected on the shores of the Rio Tinto and the country was formally
annexed.  The natives were friendly, and supplied the ships with
provisions; but they were very black and ugly, and Columbus readily
believed the assertion of his native guide that they were cannibals.
They continued their course to the eastward, but as the gulf narrowed the
force of the west-going current was felt more severely.  Columbus,
believing that the strait which he sought lay to the eastward, laboured
against the current, and his difficulties were increased by the bad
weather which he now encountered.  There were squalls and hurricanes,
tempests and cross-currents that knocked his frail ships about and almost
swamped them.  Anchors and gear were lost, the sails were torn out of the
bolt-ropes, timbers were strained; and for six weeks this state of
affairs went on to an accompaniment of thunder and lightning which added
to the terror and discomfort of the mariners.

This was in August and the first half of September--six weeks of the
worst weather that Columbus had ever experienced.  It was the more
unfortunate that his illness made it impossible for him to get actively
about the ship; and he had to have a small cabin or tent rigged up on
deck, in which he could lie and direct the navigation.  It is bad enough
to be as ill as he was in a comfortable bed ashore; it is a thousand
times worse amid the discomforts of a small boat at sea; but what must it
have been thus to have one’s sick-bed on the deck of a cockle-shell which
was being buffeted and smashed in unknown seas, and to have to think and
act not for oneself alone but for the whole of a suffering little fleet!
No wonder the Admiral’s distress of mind was great; but oddly enough his
anxieties, as he recorded them in a letter, were not so much on his own
account as on behalf of others.  The terrified seamen making vows to the
Virgin and promises of pilgrimages between their mad rushes to the sheets
and furious clinging and hauling; his son Ferdinand, who was only
fourteen, but who had to endure the same pain and fatigue as the rest of
them, and who was enduring it with such pluck that “it was as if he had
been at sea eighty years”; the dangers of Bartholomew, who had not wanted
to come on this voyage at all, but was now in the thick of it in the
worst ship of the squadron, and fighting for his life amid tempests and
treacherous seas; Diego at home, likely to be left an orphan and at the
mercy of fickle and doubtful friends--these were the chief causes of the
Admiral’s anxiety.  All he said about himself was that “by my misfortune
the twenty years of service which I gave with so much fatigue and danger
have profited me so little that to-day I have in Castile no roof, and if
I wished to dine or sup or sleep I have only the tavern for my last
refuge, and for that, most of the time, I would be unable to pay the
score.”  Not cheerful reflections, these, to add to the pangs of acute
gout and the consuming anxieties of seamanship under such circumstances.
Dreadful to him, these things, but not dreadful to us; for they show us
an Admiral restored to his true temper and vocation, something of the old
sea hero breaking out in him at last through all these misfortunes, like
the sun through the hurrying clouds of a stormy afternoon.

Forty days of passage through this wilderness of water were endured
before the sea-worn mariners, rounding a cape on September 12th, saw
stretching before them to the southward a long coast of plain and
mountain which they were able to follow with a fair wind.  Gradually the
sea went down; the current which had opposed them here aided them, and
they were able to recover a little from the terrible strain of the last
six weeks.  The cape was called by Columbus ‘Gracios de Dios’; and on the
16th of September they landed at the entrance to a river to take in
water.  The boat which was sent ashore, however, capsized on the sandy
bar of the entrance, two men being drowned, and the river was given the
name of Rio de Desastre.  They found a better anchorage, where they
rested for ten days, overhauled their stores, and had some intercourse
with the natives and exploration on shore.  Some incidents occurred which
can best be described in the Admiral’s own language as he recorded them
in his letter to the Sovereigns.

     “ . . . When I reached there, they immediately sent me two young
     girls dressed in rich garments.  The older one might not have been
     more than eleven years of age and the other seven; both with so much
     experience, so much manner, and so much appearance as would have
     been sufficient if they had been public women for twenty years.
     They bore with them magic powder and other things belonging to their
     art.  When they arrived I gave orders that they should be adorned
     with our things and sent them immediately ashore.  There I saw a
     tomb within the mountain as large as a house and finely worked with
     great artifice, and a corpse stood thereon uncovered, and, looking
     within it, it seemed as if he stood upright.  Of the other arts they
     told me that there was excellence.  Great and little animals are
     there in quantities, and very different from ours; among which I saw
     boars of frightful form so that a dog of the Irish breed dared not
     face them.  With a cross-bow I had wounded an animal which exactly
     resembles a baboon only that it was much larger and has a face like
     a human being.  I had pierced it with an arrow from one side to the
     other, entering in the breast and going out near the tail, and
     because it was very ferocious I cut off one of the fore feet which
     rather seemed to be a hand, and one of the hind feet.  The boars
     seeing this commenced to set up their bristles and fled with great
     fear, seeing the blood of the other animal.  When I saw this I
     caused to be thrown them the ‘uegare,’--[Peccary]--certain animals
     they call so, where it stood, and approaching him, near as he was to
     death, and the arrow still sticking in his body, he wound his tail
     around his snout and held it fast, and with the other hand which
     remained free, seized him by the neck as an enemy.  This act, so
     magnificent and novel, together with the fine country and hunting of
     wild beasts, made me write this to your Majesties.”

The natives at this anchorage of Cariari were rather suspicious, but
Columbus seized two of them to act as guides in his journey further down
the coast.  Weighing anchor on October 5th he worked along the Costa Rica
shore, which here turns to the eastward again, and soon found a tribe of
natives who wore large ornaments of gold.  They were reluctant to part
with the gold, but as usual pointed down the coast and said that there
was much more gold there; they even gave a name to the place where the
gold could be found--Veragua; and for once this country was found to have
a real existence.  The fleet anchored there on October 17th, being
greeted by defiant blasts of conch shells and splashing of water from the
indignant natives.  Business was done, however: seventeen gold discs in
exchange for three hawks’ bells.

Still Columbus went on in pursuit of his geographical chimera; even gold
had no power to detain him from the earnest search for this imaginary
strait.  Here and there along the coast he saw increasing signs of
civilisation--once a wall built of mud and stone, which made him think of
Cathay again.  He now got it into his head that the region he was in was
ten days’ journey from the Ganges, and that it was surrounded by water;
which if it means anything means that he thought he was on a large island
ten days’ sail to the eastward of the coast of India.  Altogether at sea
as to the facts, poor Admiral, but with heart and purpose steadfast and
right enough.

They sailed a little farther along the coast, now between narrow islands
that were like the streets of Genoa, where the boughs of trees on either
hand brushed the shrouds of the ships; now past harbours where there were
native fairs and markets, and where natives were to be seen mounted on
horses and armed with swords; now by long, lonely stretches of the coast
where there was nothing to be seen but the low green shore with the
mountains behind and the alligators basking at the river mouths.  At last
(November 2nd) they arrived at the cape known as Nombre de Dios, which
Ojeda had reached some time before in his voyage to the West.

The coast of the mainland had thus been explored from the Bay of Honduras
to Brazil, and Columbus was obliged to admit that there was no strait.
Having satisfied himself of that he decided to turn back to Veragua,
where he had seen the natives smelting gold, in order to make some
arrangement for establishing a colony there.  The wind, however, which
had headed him almost all the way on his easterly voyage, headed him
again now and began to blow steadily from the west.  He started on his
return journey on the 5th of December, and immediately fell into almost
worse troubles than he had been in before.  The wood of the ships had
been bored through and through by seaworms, so that they leaked very
badly; the crews were sick, provisions were spoilt, biscuits rotten.
Young Ferdinand Columbus, if he did not actually make notes of this
voyage at the time, preserved a very lively recollection of it, and it is
to his Historie, which in its earlier passages is of doubtful
authenticity, that we owe some of the most human touches of description
relating to this voyage.  Any passage in his work relating to food or
animals at this time has the true ring of boyish interest and
observation, and is in sharp contrast to the second-hand and artificial
tone of the earlier chapters of his book.  About the incident of the
howling monkey, which the Admiral’s Irish hound would not face, Ferdinand
remarks that it “frighted a good dog that we had, but frighted one of our
wild boars a great deal more”; and as to the condition of the biscuits
when they turned westward again, he says that they were “so full of
weevils that, as God shall help me, I saw many that stayed till night to
eat their sop for fear of seeing them.”

After experiencing some terrible weather, in the course of which they had
been obliged to catch sharks for food and had once been nearly
overwhelmed by a waterspout, they entered a harbour where, in the words
of young Ferdinand, “we saw the people living like birds in the tops of
the trees, laying sticks across from bough to bough and building their
huts upon them; and though we knew not the reason of the custom we
guessed that it was done for fear of their enemies, or of the griffins
that are in this island.”  After further experiences of bad weather they
made what looked like a suitable harbour on the coast of Veragua, which
harbour, as they entered it on the day of the Epiphany (January 9, 1503),
they named Belem or Bethlehem.  The river in the mouth of which they were
anchored, however, was subject to sudden spouts and gushes of water from
the hills, one of which occurred on January 24th and nearly swamped the
caravels.  This spout of water was caused by the rainy season, which had
begun in the mountains and presently came down to the coast, where it
rained continuously until the 14th of February.  They had made friends
with the Quibian or chief of the country, and he had offered to conduct
them to the place where the gold mines were; so Bartholomew was sent off
in the rain with a boat party to find this territory.  It turned out
afterwards that the cunning Quibian had taken them out of his own country
and showed them the gold mined of a neighbouring chief, which were not so
rich as his own.

Columbus, left idle in the absence of Bartholomew, listening to the
continuous drip and patter of the rain on the leaves and the water,
begins to dream again--to dream of gold and geography.  Remembers that
David left three thousand quintals of gold from the Indies to Solomon for
the decoration of the Temple; remembers that Josephus said it came from
the Golden Chersonesus; decides that enough gold could never have been
got from the mines of Hayna in Espanola; and concludes that the Ophir of
Solomon must be here in Veragua and not there in Espanola.  It was always
here and now with Columbus; and as he moved on his weary sea pilgrimages
these mythical lands with their glittering promise moved about with him,
like a pillar of fire leading him through the dark night of his quest.

The rain came to an end, however, the sun shone out again, and activity
took the place of dreams with Columbus and with his crew.  He decided to
found a settlement in this place, and to make preparations for seizing
and working the gold mines.  It was decided to leave a garrison of eighty
men, and the business of unloading the necessary arms and provisions and
building houses ashore was immediately begun.  Hawks’ bells and other
trifles were widely distributed among the natives, with special toys and
delicacies for the Quibian, in order that friendly relations might be
established from the beginning; and special regulations were framed to
prevent the possibility of any recurrence of the disasters that overtook
the settlers of Isabella.

Such are the orderly plans of Columbus; but the Quibian has his plans
too, which are found to be of quite a different nature.  The Quibian does
not like intruders, though he likes their hawks’ bells well enough; he is
not quite so innocent as poor Guacanagari and the rest of them were; he
knows that gold is a thing coveted by people to whom it does not belong,
and that trouble follows in its train.  Quibian therefore decides that
Columbus and his followers shall be exterminated--news of which intention
fortunately came to the ears of Columbus in time, Diego Mendez and
Rodrigo de Escobar having boldly advanced into the Quibian’s village and
seen the warlike preparations.  Bartholomew, returning from his visit to
the gold mines, was informed of this state of affairs.  Always quick to
strike, Bartholomew immediately started with an armed force, and advanced
upon the village so rapidly that the savages were taken by surprise,
their headquarters surrounded, and the Quibian and fifty of his warriors
captured.  Bartholomew triumphantly marched the prisoners back, the
Quibian being entrusted to the charge of Juan Sanchez, who was rowing him
in a little boat.  The Quibian complained that his bonds were hurting
him, and foolish Sanchez eased them a little; Quibian, with a quick
movement, wriggled overboard and dived to the bottom; came up again
somewhere and reached home alive.  No one saw him come up, however, and
they thought had had been drowned.

Columbus now made ready to depart, and the caravels having been got over
the shallow bar, their loading was completed and they were ready to sail.
On April 6th Diego Tristan was sent in charge of a boat with a message to
Bartholomew, who was to be left in command of the settlement; but when
Tristan had rounded the point at the entrance to the river and come in
sight of the shore he had an unpleasant surprise; the settlement was
being savagely attacked by the resurrected Quibian and his followers.
The fight had lasted for three hours, and had been going badly against
the Spaniards, when Bartholomew and Diego Mendes rallied a little force
round them and, calling to Columbus’s Irish dog which had been left with
them, made a rush upon the savages and so terrified them that they
scattered.  Bartholomew with eight of the other Spaniards was wounded,
and one was killed; and it was at this point that Tristan’s boat arrived
at the settlement.  Having seen the fight safely over, he went on up the
river to get water, although he was warned that it was not safe; and sure
enough, at a point a little farther up the river, beyond some low green
arm of the shore, he met with a sudden and bloody death.  A cloud of
yelling savages surrounded his boat hurling javelins and arrows, and only
one seaman, who managed to dive into the water and crawl ashore, escaped
to bring the evil tidings.

The Spaniards under Bartholomew’s command broke into a panic, and taking
advantage of his wounded condition they tried to make sail on their
caravel and join the ships of Columbus outside; but since the time of the
rains the river had so much gone down that she was stuck fast in the
sand.  They could not even get a boat over the bar, for there was a heavy
cross sea breaking on it; and in the meantime here they were, trapped
inside this river, the air resounding with dismal blasts of the natives’
conch-shells, and the natives themselves dancing round and threatening to
rush their position; while the bodies of Tristan and his little crew were
to be seen floating down the stream, feasted upon by a screaming cloud of
birds.  The position of the shore party was desperate, and it was only by
the greatest efforts that the wounded Adelantado managed to rally his
crew and get them to remove their little camp to an open place on the
shore, where a kind of stockade was made of chests, casks, spars, and the
caravel’s boat.  With this for cover, the Spanish fire-arms, so long as
there was ammunition for them, were enough to keep the natives at bay.

Outside the bar, in his anchorage beyond the green wooded point, the
Admiral meanwhile was having an anxious time.  One supposes the entrance
to the river to have been complicated by shoals and patches of broken
water extending some considerable distance, so that the Admiral’s
anchorage would be ten or twelve miles away from the camp ashore, and of
course entirely hidden from it.  As day after day passed and Diego
Tristan did not return, the Admiral’s anxiety increased.  Among the three
caravels that now formed his little squadron there was only one boat
remaining, the others, not counting one taken by Tristan and one left
with Bartholomew, having all been smashed in the late hurricanes.  In the
heavy sea that was running on the bar the Admiral dared not risk his last
remaining boat; but in the mean time he was cut off from all news of the
shore party and deprived of any means of finding out what had happened to
Tristan.  And presently to these anxieties was added a further disaster.
It will be remembered that when the Quibian had been captured fifty
natives had been taken with him; and these were confined in the
forecastle of the Capitana and covered by a large hatch, on which most of
the crew slept at night.  But one night the natives collected a heap of
big stones from the ballast of the ship, and piled them up to a kind of
platform beneath the hatch; some of the strongest of them got upon the
platform and set their backs horizontally against the hatch, gave a great
heave and, lifted it off.  In the confusion that followed, a great many
of the prisoners escaped into the sea, and swam ashore; the rest were
captured and thrust back under the hatch, which was chained down; but
when on the following morning the Spaniards went to attend to this
remnant it was found that they had all hanged themselves.

This was a great disaster, since it increased the danger of the garrison
ashore, and destroyed all hope of friendship with the natives.  There was
something terrible and powerful, too, in the spirit of people who could
thus to a man make up their minds either to escape or die; and the
Admiral must have felt that he was in the presence of strange, powerful
elements that were far beyond his control.  At any moment, moreover, the
wind might change and put him on a lee shore, or force him to seek safety
in sea-room; in which case the position of Bartholomew would be a very
critical one.  It was while things were at this apparent deadlock that a
brave fellow, Pedro Ledesma, offered to attempt to swim through the surf
if the boat would take him to the edge of it.  Brave Pedro, his offer
accepted, makes the attempt; plunges into the boiling surf, and with
mighty efforts succeeds in reaching the shore; and after an interval is
seen by his comrades, who are waiting with their boat swinging on the
edge of the surf, to be returning to them; plunges into the sea, comes
safely through the surf again, and is safely hauled on board, having
accomplished a very real and satisfactory bit of service.

The story he had to tell the Admiral was as we know not a pleasant one
--Tristan and his men dead, several of Bartholomew’s force, including the
Adelantado himself, wounded, and all in a state of panic and fear at the
hostile natives.  The Spaniards would do nothing to make the little
fortress safer, and were bent only on escaping from the place of horror.
Some of them were preparing canoes in which to come out to the ships when
the sea should go down, as their one small boat was insufficient; and
they swore that if the Admiral would not take them they would seize their
own caravel and sail out themselves into the unknown sea as soon as they
could get her floated over the bar, rather than remain in such a dreadful
situation.  Columbus was in a very bad way.  He could not desert
Bartholomew, as that would expose him to the treachery of his own men
and the hostility of the savages.  He could not reinforce him, except by
remaining himself with the whole of his company; and in that case there
would be no means of sending the news of his rich discovery to Spain.
There was nothing for it, therefore, but to break up the settlement and
return some other time with a stronger force sufficient to occupy the
country.  And even this course had its difficulties; for the weather
continued bad, the wind was blowing on to the shore, the sea was--so
rough as to make the passage of the bar impossible, and any change for
the worse in the weather would probably drive his own crazy ships ashore
and cut off all hope of escape.

The Admiral, whose health was now permanently broken, and who only had
respite from his sufferings in fine weather and when he was relieved from
a burden of anxieties such as had been continually pressing on him now
for three months, fell into his old state of sleeplessness, feverishness,
and consequent depression; and it, these circumstances it is not
wonderful that the firm ground of fact began to give a little beneath him
and that his feet began to sink again into the mire or quag of stupor.
Of these further flounderings in the quag he himself wrote an account to
the King and Queen, so we may as well have it in his own words.

     “I mounted to the top of the ship crying out with a weak voice,
     weeping bitterly, to the commanders of your Majesties’ army, and
     calling again to the four winds to help; but they did not answer me.
     Tired out, I fell asleep and sighing I heard a voice very full of
     pity which spoke these words:  O fool!  and slow to believe and to
     serve Him, thy God and the God of all.  What did He more for Moses?
     and for David His servant?  Since thou wast born He had always so
     great care for thee.  When He saw thee in an age with which He was
     content He made thy name sound marvellously through the world.  The
     Indies, which are so rich apart of the world, He has given to thee
     as thine.  Thou hast distributed them wherever it has pleased thee;
     He gave thee power so to do.  Of the bonds of the ocean which were
     locked with so strong chains He gave thee the keys, and thou wast
     obeyed in all the land, and among the Christians thou hast acquired
     a good and honourable reputation.  What did He more for the people
     of Israel when He brought them out of Egypt?  or yet for David, whom
     from being a shepherd He made King of Judea?  Turn to Him and
     recognise thine error, for His mercy is infinite.  Thine old age
     will be no hindrance to all great things.  Many very great
     inheritances are in His power.  Abraham was more than one hundred
     years old when he begat Isaac and also Sarah was not young.  Thou
     art calling for uncertain aid.  Answer me, who has afflicted thee so
     much and so many times--God or the world?  The privileges and
     promises which God makes He never breaks to any one; nor does He say
     after having received the service that His intention was not so and
     it is to be understood in another manner: nor imposes martyrdom to
     give proof of His power.  He abides by the letter of His word.  All
     that He promises He abundantly accomplishes.  This is His way.  I
     have told thee what the Creator hath done for thee and does for all.
     Now He shows me the reward and payment of thy suffering and which
     thou hast passed in the service of others.  And thus half dead, I
     heard everything; but I could never find an answer to make to words
     so certain, and only I wept for my errors.  He, who ever he might
     be, finished speaking, saying: Trust and fear not, for thy
     tribulations are written in marble and not without reason.”

Mere darkness of stupor; not much to be deciphered from it, nor any
profitable comment to be made on it, except that it was our poor
Christopher’s way of crying out his great suffering and misery.  We must
not notice it, much as we should like to hold out a hand of sympathy and
comfort to him; must not pay much attention to this dark eloquent
nonsense--merely words, in which the Admiral never does himself justice.
Acts are his true conversation; and when he speaks in that language all
men must listen.



No man ever had a better excuse for his superstitions than the Admiral;
no sooner had he got done with his Vision than the wind dropped, the sun
came out, the sea fell, and communication with the land was restored.
While he had been sick and dreaming one of his crew, Diego Mendez, had
been busy with practical efforts in preparation for this day of fine
weather; he had made a great raft out of Indian canoes lashed together,
with mighty sacks of sail cloth into which the provisions might be
bundled; and as soon as the sea had become calm enough he took this raft
in over the bar to the settlement ashore, and began the business of
embarking the whole of the stores and ammunition of Bartholomew’s
garrison.  By this practical method the whole establishment was
transferred from the shore to the ships in the space of two days, and
nothing was left but the caravel, which it was found impossible to float
again.  It was heavy work towing the raft constantly backwards and
forwards from the ships to the shore, but Diego Mendez had the
satisfaction of being the last man to embark from the deserted
settlement, and to see that not an ounce of stores or ammunition had been

Columbus, always quick to reward the services of a good man, kissed Diego
Mendez publicly--on both cheeks, and (what doubtless pleased him much
better) gave him command of the caravel of which poor Tristan had been
the captain.

With a favourable wind they sailed from this accursed shore at the end of
April 1503.  It is strange, as Winsor points out, that in the name of
this coast should be preserved the only territorial remembrance of
Columbus, and that his descendant the Duke of Veragua should in his title
commemorate one of the most unfortunate of the Admiral’s adventures.  And
if any one should desire a proof of the utterly misleading nature of most
of Columbus’s writings about himself, let him know that a few months
later he solemnly wrote to the Sovereigns concerning this very place that
“there is not in the world a country whose inhabitants are more timid;
and the whole place is capable of being easily put into a state of
defence.  Your people that may come here, if they should wish to become
masters of the products of other lands, will have to take them by force
or retire empty-handed.  In this country they will simply have to trust
their persons in the hands of the savages.”  The facts being that the
inhabitants were extremely fierce and warlike and irreconcilably hostile;
that the river was a trap out of which in the dry season there was no
escape, and the harbour outside a mere shelterless lee shore; that it
would require an army and an armada to hold the place against the
natives, and that any one who trusted himself in their hands would
share the fate of the unhappy Diego Tristan.  One may choose between
believing that the Admiral’s memory had entirely failed him (although he
had not been backward in making a minute record, of all his sufferings)
or that he was craftily attempting to deceive the Sovereigns.  My own
belief is that he was neither trying to deceive anybody nor that he had
forgotten anything, but that he was simply incapable of uttering the bare
truth when he had a pen in his hand.

From their position on the coast of Veragua Espanola bore almost due
north; but Columbus was too good a seaman to attempt to make the island
by sailing straight for it.  He knew that the steady west-going current
would set him far down on his course, and he therefore decided to work up
the coast a long way to the eastward before standing across for Espanola.
The crew grumbled very much at this proceeding, which they did not
understand; in fact they argued from it that the Admiral was making
straight for Spain, and this, in the crazy condition of the vessels,
naturally alarmed them.  But in his old high-handed, secret way the
Admiral told them nothing; he even took away from the other captains all
the charts that they had made of this coast, so that no one but himself
would be able to find the way back to it; and he took a kind of pleasure
in the complete mystification thus produced on his fellow-voyagers.
“None of them could explain whither I went nor whence I came; they did
not know the way to return thither,” he writes, somewhat childishly.

But he was not back in Espanola yet, and his means for getting there were
crumbling away beneath his feet.  One of the three remaining caravels was
entirely riddled by seaworms and had to be abandoned at the harbour
called Puerto Bello; and the company was crowded on to two ships.  The
men now became more than ever discontented at the easterly course, and on
May 1st, when he had come as far east as the Gulf of Darien, Columbus
felt obliged to bear away to the north, although as it turned out he had
not nearly made enough easting.  He stood on this course, for nine days,
the west-going current setting him down all the time; and the first land
that he made, on May 10th, was the group of islands off the western end
of Cuba which he had called the Queen’s Gardens.

He anchored for six days here, as the crews were completely exhausted;
the ships’ stores were reduced to biscuits, oil, and vinegar; the vessels
leaked like sieves, and the pumps had to be kept going continually.  And
no sooner had they anchored than a hurricane came on, and brought up a
sea so heavy that the Admiral was convinced that his ships could not live
within it.  We have got so accustomed to reading of storms and tempests
that it seems useless to try and drive home the horror and terror of
them; but here were these two rotten ships alone at the end of the world,
far beyond the help of man, the great seas roaring up under them in the
black night, parting their worn cables, snatching away their anchors from
them, and finally driving them one upon the other to grind and strain and
prey upon each other, as though the external conspiracy of the elements
against them both were not sufficient!  One writes or reads the words,
but what does it mean to us? and can we by any conceivable effort of
imagination realise what it meant to this group of human beings who lived
through that night so many hundred years ago--men like ourselves with
hearts to sink and faint, capable of fear and hunger, capable of misery,
pain, and endurance?  Bruised and battered, wet by the terrifying surges,
and entirely uncomforted by food or drink, they did somehow endure these
miseries; and were to endure worse too before they were done with it.

Their six days’ sojourn amid the Queen’s Gardens, then, was not a great
success; and as soon as they were able they set sail again, standing
eastward when the wind permitted them.  But wind and current were against
them and all through the month of May and the early part of June they
struggled along the south coast of Cuba, their ships as full of holes as
a honeycomb, pumps going incessantly, and in addition the worn-out seamen
doing heroic labour at baling with buckets and kettles.  Lee helm!  Down
go the buckets and kettles and out run the wretched scarecrows of seamen
to the weary business of tacking ship, letting go, brailing up, hauling
in, and making fast for the thousandth time; and then back to the pumps
and kettles again.  No human being could endure this for an indefinite
time; and though their diet of worms represented by the rotten biscuit
was varied with cassava bread supplied by friendly natives, the Admiral
could not make his way eastward further than Cape Cruz.  Round that cape
his leaking, strained vessels could not be made to look against the wind
and the tide.  Could hardly indeed be made to float or swim upon the
water at all; and the Admiral had now to consider, not whether he could
sail on a particular point of the compass, but whether he could by any
means avoid another course which the fates now proposed to him--namely, a
perpendicular course to the bottom of the sea.  It was a race between the
water and the ships, and the only thing the Admiral could think of was to
turn southward across to Jamaica, which he did on June 23rd, putting into
Puerto Bueno, now called Dry Harbour.  But there was no food there, and
as his ships were settling deeper and deeper in the water he had to make
sail again and drive eastwards as far as Puerto Santa Gloria, now called
Don Christopher’s Cove.  He was just in time.  The ships were run ashore
side by side on a sandy beach, the pumps were abandoned, and in one tide
the ships were full of water.  The remaining anchor cables were used to
lash the two ships together so that they would not move; although there
was little fear of that, seeing the weight of water that was in them.
Everything that could be saved was brought up on deck, and a kind of
cabin or platform which could be fortified was rigged on the highest part
of the ships.  And so no doubt for some days, although their food was
almost finished, the wretched and exhausted voyagers could stretch their
cramped limbs, and rest in the warm sun, and listen, from their safe
haven on the firm sands, to the hated voice of the sea.

Thanks to careful regulations made by the Admiral, governing the
intercourse between the Spaniards and the natives ashore, friendly
relations were soon established, and the crews were supplied with cassava
bread and fruit in abundance.  Two officials superintended every purchase
of provisions to avoid the possibility of any dispute, for in the event
of even a momentary hostility the thatched-roof structures on the ships
could easily have been set on fire, and the position of the Spaniards,
without shelter amid a hostile population, would have been a desperate
one.  This disaster, however, was avoided; but the Admiral soon began to
be anxious about the supply of provisions from the immediate
neighbourhood, which after the first few days began to be irregular.
There were a large number of Spaniards to be fed, the natives never kept
any great store of provisions for themselves, and the Spaniards were
entirely at their mercy for, provisions from day to day.  Diego Mendez,
always ready for active and practical service, now offered to take three
men and make a journey through the island to arrange for the purchase of
provisions from different villages, so that the men on the ships would
not be dependent upon any one source.  This offer was gratefully
accepted; and Mendez, with his lieutenants well supplied with toys and
trinkets, started eastward along the north coast of Jamaica.  He made no
mistakes; he was quick and clever at ingratiating himself with the
caciques, and he succeeded in arranging with three separate potentates to
send regular supplies of provisions to the men on the ships.  At each
place where he made this arrangement he detached one of his assistants
and sent him back with the first load of provisions, so that the regular
line of carriage might be the more quickly established; and when they had
all gone he borrowed a couple of natives and pushed on by himself until
he reached the eastern end of the island.  He made friends here with a
powerful cacique named Amerro, from whom he bought a large canoe, and
paid for it with some of the clothing off his back.  With the canoe were
furnished six Indians to row it, and Mendez made a triumphant journey
back by sea, touching at the places where his depots had been established
and seeing that his commissariat arrangements were working properly.  He
was warmly received on his return to the ships, and the result of his
efforts was soon visible in the daily supplies of food that now regularly

Thus was one difficulty overcome; but it was not likely that either
Columbus himself or any of his people would be content to remain for ever
on the beach of Jamaica.  It was necessary to establish communication
with Espanola, and thence with Spain; but how to do it in the absence of
ships or even boats?  Columbus, pondering much upon this matter, one day
calls Diego Mendez aside; walks him off, most likely, under the great
rustling trees beyond the beach, and there tells him his difficulty.
“My son,” says he, “you and I understand the difficulties and dangers of
our position here better than any one else.  We are few; the Indians are
many; we know how fickle and easily irritated they are, and how a
fire-brand thrown into our thatched cabins would set the whole thing
ablaze. It is quite true that you have very cleverly established a
provision supply, but it is dependent entirely upon the good nature of
the natives and it might cease to-morrow.  Here is my plan: you have a
good canoe; why should some one not go over to Espanola in it and send
back a ship for us?”

Diego Mendez, knowing very well what is meant, looks down upon the
ground.  His spoken opinion is that such a journey is not merely
difficult but impossible journey in a frail native canoe across one
hundred and fifty miles of open and rough sea; although his private
opinion is other than that.  No, he cannot imagine such a thing being
done; cannot think who would be able to do it.

Long silence from the Admiral; eloquent silence, accompanied by looks no
less eloquent.

“Admiral,” says Mendez again, “you know very well that I have risked my
life for you and the people before and would do it again.  But there are
others who have at least as good a right to this great honour and peril
as I have; let me beg of you, therefore, to summon all the company
together, make this proposal to them, and see if any one will undertake
it.  If not, I will once more risk my life.”

The proposal being duly made to the assembled crews, every one, as
cunning Mendez had thought, declares it impossible; every one hangs back.
Upon which Diego Mendez with a fine gesture comes forward and volunteers;
makes his little dramatic effect and has his little ovation.  Thoroughly
Spanish this, significant of that mixture of vanity and bravery, of
swagger and fearlessness, which is characteristic of the best in Spain.
It was a desperately brave thing to venture upon, this voyage from
Jamaica to Espanola in a native canoe and across a sea visited by
dreadful hurricanes; and the volunteer was entitled to his little piece
of heroic drama.

While Mendez was making his preparations, putting a false keel on the
canoe and fixing weather boards along its gunwales to prevent its
shipping seas, fitting a mast and sail and giving it a coat of tar, the
Admiral retired into his cabin and busied himself with his pen.  He wrote
one letter to Ovando briefly describing his circumstances and requesting
that a ship should be sent for his relief; and another to the Sovereigns,
in which a long rambling account was given of the events of the voyage,
and much other matter besides, dismally eloquent of his floundering in
the quag.  Much in it--about Solomon and Josephus, of the Abbot Joachim,
of Saint Jerome and the Great Khan; more about the Holy Sepulchre and the
intentions of the Almighty in that matter; with some serious practical
concern for the rich land of Veragua which he had discovered, lest it
should share the fate of his other discoveries and be eaten up by idle
adventurers.  “Veragua,” he says, “is not a little son which may be given
to a stepmother to nurse.  Of Espanola and Paria and all the other lands
I never think without the tears falling from my eyes; I believe that the
example of these ought to serve for the others.”  And then this passage:

     “The good and sound purpose which I always had to serve your
     Majesties, and the dishonour and unmerited ingratitude, will not
     suffer the soul to be silent although I wished it, therefore I ask
     pardon of your Majesties.  I have been so lost and undone; until now
     I have wept for others that your Majesties might have compassion on
     them; and now may the heavens weep for me and the earth weep for me
     in temporal affairs; I have not a farthing to make as an offering in
     spiritual affairs.  I have remained here on the Indian islands in
     the manner I have before said in great pain and infirmity, expecting
     every day death, surrounded by innumerable savages full of cruelty
     and by our enemies, and so far from the sacraments of the Holy
     Mother Church that I believe the soul will be forgotten when it
     leaves the body.  Let them weep for me who have charity, truth and
     justice.  I did not undertake this voyage of navigation to gain
     honour or material things, that is certain, because the hope already
     was entirely lost; but I did come to serve your Majesties with
     honest intention and with good charitable zeal, and I do not lie.”

Poor old heart, older than its years, thus wailing out its sorrows to
ears none too sympathetic; sad old voice, uplifted from the bright shores
of that lonely island in the midst of strange seas!  It will not come
clear to the head alone; the echoes of this cry must reverberate in the
heart if they are to reach and animate the understanding.

At this time also the Admiral wrote to his friend Gaspar Gorricio.  For
the benefit of those who may be interested I give the letter in English.


     “If my voyage should be as conducive to my personal health and the
     repose of my house as it seems likely to be conducive to the
     aggrandisement of the royal Crown of the King and Queen, my Lords,
     I might hope to live more than a hundred years.  I have not time to
     write more at length.  I hope that the bearer of this letter may be
     a person of my house who will tell you verbally more than can be
     told in a thousand papers, and also Don Diego will supply
     information.  I beg as a favour of the Father Prior and all the
     members of your religious house, that they remember me in all their

     “Done on the island of Jamaica, July 7, 1503.
     “I am at the command of your Reverence.

                                             .S.A.S.  XMY
                                              Xpo FERENS.”

Diego Mendez found some one among the Spaniards to accompany him, but his
name is not recorded.  The six Indians were taken to row the canoe.  They
had to make their way at first against the strong currents along the
northern coast of Jamaica, so as to reach its eastern extremity before
striking across to Espanola.  At one point they met a flotilla of Indian
canoes, which chased them and captured them, but they escaped.  When they
arrived at the end of the easterly point of Jamaica, now known as Morant
Point, they had to wait two or three days for calm weather and a
favourable wind to waft them across to Espanola, and while thus waiting
they were suddenly surrounded and captured by a tribe of hostile natives,
who carried them off some nine or ten miles into the island, and
signified their intention of killing them.

But they began to quarrel among themselves as to how they should divide
the spoils which they had captured with the canoe, and decided that the
only way of settling the dispute was by some elaborate trial of hazard
which they used.  While they were busy with their trial Diego Mendez
managed to escape, got back to the canoe, and worked his way back in it
alone to the harbour where the Spaniards were encamped.  The other
Spaniard who was with him probably perished, for there is no record of
what became of him--an obscure life lost in a brave enterprise.

One would have thought that Mendez now had enough of canoe voyages, but
he had no sooner got back than he offered to set out again, only
stipulating that an armed force should march along the coast by land to
secure his safety until he could stand across to Espanola.  Bartholomew
Columbus immediately put himself at the head of a large and well-armed
party for this purpose, and Bartolomeo Fieschi, the Genoese captain of
one of the lost caravels, volunteered to accompany Mendez in a second
canoe.  Each canoe was now manned by six Spanish volunteers and ten
Indians to row; Fieschi, as soon as they had reached the coast of
Espanola, was to bring the good news to the Admiral; while Mendez must go
on to San Domingo, procure a ship, and himself proceed to Spain with the
Admiral’s letters.  The canoes were provisioned with water, cassava
bread, and fish; and they departed on this enterprise some time in August

Their passage along the coast was protected by Bartholomew Columbus, who
marched along with them on the shore.  They waited a few days at the end
of the island for favourable weather, and finally said farewell to the
good Adelantado, who we may be sure stood watching them until they were
well out of sight.

There was not a cloud in the sky when the canoes stood out to sea; the
water was calm, and reflected the blistering heat of the sun.  It was not
a pleasant situation for people in an open boat; and Mendez and Fieschi
were kept busy, as Irving says, “animating the Indians who navigated
their canoes, and who frequently paused at their labour.”  The poor
Indians, evidently much in need of such animation, would often jump into
the water to escape the intolerable heat, and after a short immersion
there would return to their task.  Things were better when the sun went
down, and the cool night came on; half the Indians then slept and half
rowed, while half of the Spaniards also slept and the other half, I
suppose, “animated.”  Irving also says that the animating half “kept
guard with their weapons in hand, ready to defend themselves in the case
of any perfidy on the part of their savage companions”; such perfidy
being far enough from the thoughts of the savage companions, we may
imagine, whose energies were entirely occupied with the oars.

The next day was the same: savage companions rowing, Spaniards animating;
Spaniards and savage companions alike drinking water copiously without
regard for the smallness of their store.  The second night was very hot,
and the savage companions finished the water, with the result that on the
third day the thirst became a torment, and at mid-day the poor companions
struck work.  Artful Mendez, however, had concealed two small kegs of
water in his canoe, the contents of which he now administered in small
doses, so that the poor Indians were enabled to take to their oars again,
though with vigour much abated.  Presumably the Spaniards had put up
their weapons by this time, for the only perfidy shown on the part of the
savage companions was that one of them died in the following night and
had to be thrown overboard, while others lay panting on the bottom of the
canoes; and the Spaniards had to take their turn at the oars, although
they were if anything in a worse case than the Indians.

Late in the night, however, the moon rose, and Mendez had the joy of
seeing its lower disc cut by a jagged line which proved to be the little
islet or rock of Navassa, which lies off the westerly end of Espanola.
New hope now animated the sufferers, and they pushed on until they were
able to land on this rock, which proved to be without any vegetation
whatsoever, but on the surface of which there were found some precious
pools of rain-water.  Mendez was able to restrain the frantic appetites
of his fellow-countrymen, but the savage companions were less wise, and
drank their fill; so that some of them died in torment on the spot, and
others became seriously ill.  The Spaniards were able to make a fire of
driftwood, and boil some shell-fish, which they found on shore, and they
wisely spent the heat of the day crouching in the shade of the rocks, and
put off their departure until the evening.  It was then a comparatively
easy journey for them to cross the dozen miles that separated them from
Espanola, and they landed the next day in a pleasant harbour near Cape
Tiburon.  Fieschi, true to his promise, was then ready to start back for
Jamaica with news of the safe accomplishment of the voyage; but the
remnant of the crews, Spaniards and savage companions alike, had had
enough of it, and no threats or persuasions would induce them to embark
again.  Mendez, therefore, left his friends to enjoy some little repose
before continuing their journey to San Domingo, and, taking six natives
of Espanola to row his canoe; set off along the coast towards the
capital.  He had not gone half-way when he learned that Ovando was not
there, but was in Xaragua, so he left his canoe and struck northward
through the forest until he arrived at the Governor’s camp.

Ovando welcomed Mendez cordially, praised him for his plucky voyage, and
expressed the greatest concern at the plight of the Admiral; but he was
very busy at the moment, and was on the point of transacting a piece of
business that furnished a dismal proof of the deterioration which had
taken place in him.  Anacaona--the lady with the daughter whom we
remember--was now ruling over the province of Xaragua, her brother having
died; and as perhaps her native subjects had been giving a little trouble
to the Governor, he had come to exert his authority.  The narrow official
mind, brought into contact with native life, never develops in the
direction of humanity; and Ovando had now for some time made the great
discovery that it was less trouble to kill people than to try to rule
over them wisely.  There had evidently always been a streak of Spanish
cruelty in him, which had been much developed by his residence in
Espanola; and to cruelty and narrow officialdom he now added treachery of
a very monstrous and horrible kind.

He announced his intention of paying a state visit to Anacaona, who
thereupon summoned all her tributary chiefs to a kind of levee held in
his honour.  In the midst of the levee, at a given signal, Ovando’s
soldiers rushed in, seized the caciques, fastened them to the wooden
pillars of the house, and set the whole thing on fire; the caciques being
thus miserably roasted alive.  While this was going on the atrocious work
was completed by the soldiers massacring every native they could see
--children, women, and old men included--and Anacaona herself was taken
and hanged.

All these things Diego Mendez had to witness; and when they were over,
Ovando still had excuses for not hurrying to the relief of the Admiral.
He had embarked on a campaign of extermination against the natives, and
he followed up his atrocities at Xaragua by an expedition to the eastern
end of Espanola, where very much the same kind of business was
transacted.  Weeks and months passed in this bloody cruelty, and there
was always an excuse for putting off Mendez.  Now it was because of the
operations which he dignified by the name of wars, and now because he had
no ship suitable for sending to Jamaica; but the truth was that Ovando,
the springs of whose humanity had been entirely dried up during his
disastrous reign in Espanola, did not want Columbus to see with his own
eyes the terrible state of the island, and was callous enough to leave
him either to perish or to find his own way back to the world.  It was
only when news came that a fleet of caravels was expected from Spain that
Ovando could no longer prevent Mendez from going to San Domingo and,
purchasing one of them.

Ovando had indeed lost all but the outer semblance of a man; the soul or
animating part of him had entirely gone to corruption.  He had no
interest in rescuing the Admiral; he had, on the contrary, great interest
in leaving him unrescued; but curiosity as to his fate, and fear as to
his actions in case he should return to Espanola, induced the Governor to
make some effort towards spying cut his condition.  He had a number of
trained rascals under his command--among them Diego de Escobar, one of
Roldan’s bright brigade; and Ovando had no sooner seen Mendez depart on
his journey to San Domingo than he sent this Escobar to embark in a small
caravel on a visit to Jamaica in order to see if the Admiral was still
alive.  The caravel had to be small, so that there could be no chance of
bringing off the 130 men who had been left to perish there; and various
astute instructions were given to Escobar in order to prevent his arrival
being of any comfort or assistance to the shipwrecked ones.  And so
Escobar sailed; and so, in the month of March 1504, eight months after
the vanishing of Mendez below the eastern horizon, the miserable company
encamped on the two decaying ships on the sands at Puerto Santa Gloria
descried with joyful excitement the sails of a Spanish caravel standing
in to the shore.



We must now return to the little settlement on the coast of Jamaica
--those two wornout caravels, lashed together with ropes and bridged by an
erection of wood and thatch, in which the forlorn little company was
established.  In all communities of men so situated there are alternate
periods of action and reaction, and after the excitement incidental to
the departure of Mendez, and the return of Bartholomew with the news that
he had got safely away, there followed a time of reaction, in which the
Spaniards looked dismally out across the empty sea and wondered when, if
ever, their salvation would come.  Columbus himself was now a confirmed
invalid, and could hardly ever leave his bed under the thatch; and in his
own condition of pain and depression his influence on the rest of the
crew must inevitably have been less inspiriting than it had formerly
been.  The men themselves, moreover, began to grow sickly, chiefly on
account of the soft vegetable food, to which they were not accustomed,
and partly because of their cramped quarters and the moist, unhealthy
climate, which was the very opposite of what they needed after their long
period of suffering and hardship at sea.

As the days and weeks passed, with no occupation save the daily business
of collecting food that gradually became more and more nauseous to them,
and of straining their eyes across the empty blue of the sea in an
anxious search for the returning canoes of Fieschi, the spirits of the
castaways sank lower and lower.  Inevitably their discontent became
articulate and broke out into murmurings.  The usual remedy for this
state of affairs is to keep the men employed at some hard work; but there
was no work for them to do, and the spirit of dissatisfaction had ample
opportunity to spread.  As usual it soon took the form of hostility to
the Admiral.  They seem to have borne him no love or gratitude for his
masterly guiding of them through so many dangers; and now when he lay ill
and in suffering his treacherous followers must needs fasten upon him the
responsibility for their condition.  After a month or two had passed, and
it became certain that Fieschi was not coming back, the castaways could
only suppose that he and Mendez had either been captured by natives or
had perished at sea, and that their fellow-countrymen must still be
without news of the Admiral’s predicament.  They began to say also that
the Admiral was banished from Spain; that there was no desire or
intention on the part of the Sovereigns to send an expedition to his
relief; even if they had known of his condition; and that in any case
they must long ago have given him up for lost.

When the pot boils the scum rises to the surface, and the first result of
these disloyal murmurings and agitations was to bring into prominence the
two brothers, Francisco and Diego de Porras, who, it will be remembered,
owed their presence with the expedition entirely to the Admiral’s good
nature in complying with the request of their brother-in-law Morales, who
had apparently wished to find some distant occupation for them.  They had
been given honourable posts as officers, in which they had not proved
competent; but the Admiral had always treated them with kindness and
courtesy, regarding them more as guests than as servants.  Who or what
these Porras brothers were, where they came from, who were their father
and mother, or what was their training, I do not know; it is enough for
us to know that the result of it all had been the production of a couple
of very mean scoundrels, who now found an opportunity to exercise their

When they discovered the nature of the murmuring and discontent among the
crew they immediately set them to work it up into open mutiny.  They
represented that, as Mendez had undoubtedly perished, there was no hope
of relief from Espanola; that the Admiral did not even expect such
relief, knowing that the island was forbidden ground to him.  They
insinuated that he was as well content to remain in Jamaica as anywhere
else, since he had to undergo a period of banishment until his friends at
Court could procure his forgiveness.  They were all, said the Porras
brothers, being made tools for the Admiral’s convenience; as he did not
wish to leave Jamaica himself, he was keeping them all there, to perish
as likely as not, and in the meantime to form a bodyguard, and establish
a service for himself.  The Porras brothers suggested that, under these
circumstances, it would be as well to take a fleet of native canoes from
the Indians and make their own way to Espanola; the Admiral would never
undertake the voyage himself, being too helpless from the gout; but it
would be absurd if the whole company were to be allowed to perish because
of the infirmities of one man.  They reminded the murmurers that they
would not be the first people who had rebelled with success against the
despotic rule of Columbus, and that the conduct of the Sovereigns on a
former occasion afforded them some promise that those who rebelled again
would receive something quite different from punishment.

Christmas passed, the old year went out in this strange, unhomelike
place, and the new year came in.  The Admiral, as we have seen, was now
almost entirely crippled and confined to his bed; and he was lying alone
in his cabin on the second day of the year when Francisco de Porras
abruptly entered.  Something very odd and flurried about Porras; he jerks
and stammers, and suddenly breaks out into a flood of agitated speech, in
which the Admiral distinguishes a stream of bitter reproach and
impertinence.  The thing forms itself into nothing more or less than a
hurried, gabbling complaint; the people are dissatisfied at being kept
here week after week with no hope of relief; they accuse the Admiral of
neglecting their interests; and so on.  Columbus, raising himself in his
bed, tries to pacify Porras; gives him reasons why it is impossible for
them to depart in canoes; makes every endeavour, in short, to bring this
miserable fellow back to his duties.  He is watching Porras’s eye all the
time; sees that he is too excited to be pacified by reason, and suspects
that he has considerable support behind him; and suggests that the crew
had better all be assembled and a consultation held as to the best course
to pursue.

It is no good to reason with mutineers; and the Admiral has no sooner
made this suggestion than he sees that it was a mistake.  Porras scoffs
at it; action, not consultation, is what he demands; in short he presents
an ultimatum to the Admiral--either to embark with the whole company at
once, or stay behind in Jamaica at his own pleasure.  And then, turning
his back on Columbus and raising his voice, he calls out, “I am for
Castile; those who choose may follow me!”

The shout was a signal, and immediately from every part of the vessel
resounded the voices of the Spaniards, crying out that they would follow
Porras.  In the midst of the confusion Columbus hobbled out of his bed
and staggered on to the deck; Bartholomew seized his weapons and prepared
for action; but the whole of the crew was not mutinous, and there was a
large enough loyal remnant to make it unwise for the chicken-hearted
mutineers to do more for the moment than shout: Some of them, it is true,
were heard threatening the life of the Admiral, but he was hurried back
to his bed by a few of the faithful ones, and others of them rushed up to
the fierce Bartholomew, and with great difficulty persuaded him to drop
his lance and retire to Christopher’s cabin with him while they dealt
with the offenders.  They begged Columbus to let the scoundrels go if
they wished to, as the condition of those who remained would be improved
rather than hurt by their absence, and they would be a good riddance.
They then went back to the deck and told Porras and his followers that
the sooner they went the better, and that nobody would interfere with
their going as long as they offered no one any violence.

The Admiral had some time before purchased some good canoes from the
natives, and the mutineers seized ten of these and loaded them with
native provisions.  Every effort was made to add to the number of the
disloyal ones; and when they saw their friends making ready to depart
several of these did actually join.  There were forty-eight who finally
embarked with the brothers Porras; and there would have been more, but
that so many of them were sick and unable to face the exposure of the
voyage.  As it was, those who remained witnessed with no very cheerful
emotions the departure of their companions, and even in some cases fell
to tears and lamentations.  The poor old Admiral struggled out of his bed
again, went round among the sick and the loyal, cheering them and
comforting them, and promising to use every effort of the power left to
him to secure an adequate reward for their loyalty when he should return
to Spain.

We need only follow the career of Porras and his deserters for the
present far enough to see them safely off the premises and out of the way
of the Admiral and our narrative.  They coasted along the shore of
Jamaica to the eastward as Mendez had done, landing whenever they had a
mind to, and robbing and outraging the natives; and they took a
particularly mean and dirty revenge on the Admiral by committing all
their robbings and outragings as though under his authority, assuring the
offended Indians that what they did they did by his command and that what
they took he would pay for; so that as they went along they sowed seeds
of grievance and hostility against the Admiral.  They told the natives,
moreover, that Columbus was an enemy of all Indians, and that they would
be very well advised to kill him and get him out of the way.

They had not managed very well with the navigation of the canoes; and
while they were waiting for fine weather at the eastern end of the island
they collected a number of natives to act as oarsmen.  When they thought
the weather suitable they put to sea in the direction of Espanola.  They
were only about fifteen miles from the shore, however, when the wind
began to head them and to send up something of a sea; not rough, but
enough to make the crank and overloaded canoes roll heavily, for they had
not been prepared, as those of Mendez were, with false keels and
weather-boards.  The Spaniards got frightened and turned back to
Jamaica; but the sea became rougher, the canoes rolled more and more,
they often shipped a quantity of water, and the situation began to look
serious.  All their belongings except arms and provisions were thrown
overboard; but still, as the wind rose and the sea with it, it became
obvious that unless the canoes were further lightened they would not
reach the shore in safety. Under these circumstances the Spaniards
forced the natives to leap into the water, where they swam about like
rats as well as they could, and then came back to the canoes in order to
hold on and rest themselves. When they did this the Spaniards slashed at
them with their swords or cut off their hands, so that one by one they
fell back and, still swimming about feebly as well as they could with
their bleeding hands or stumps of arms, the miserable wretches perished
and sank at last.

By this dreadful expedient the Spaniards managed to reach Jamaica again,
and when they landed they immediately fell to quarrelling as to what they
should do next.  Some were for trying to make the island of Cuba, the
wind being favourable for that direction; others were for returning and
making their submission to the Admiral; others for going back and seizing
the remainder of his arms and stores; others for staying where they were
for the present, and making another attempt to reach Espanola when the
weather should be more favourable.  This last plan, being the counsel of
present inaction, was adopted by the majority of the rabble; so they
settled themselves at a neighbouring Indian village, behaving in: the
manner with which we are familiar.  A little later, when the weather was
calm, they made another attempt at the voyage, but were driven back in
the same way; and being by this time sick of canoe voyages, they
abandoned the attempt, and began to wander back westward through the
island, maltreating the natives as before, and sowing seeds of bitter
rancour and hostility against the Admiral; in whose neighbourhood we
shall unfortunately hear of them again.

In the meantime their departure had somewhat relieved the condition of
affairs on board the hulks.  There were more provisions and there was
more peace; the Admiral, rising above his own infirmities to the
necessities of the occasion, moved unweariedly among the sick, cheering
them and nursing them back into health and good humour, so that gradually
the condition of the little colony was brought into better order and
health than it had enjoyed since its establishment.

But now unfortunately the evil harvest sown by the Porras gang in their
journey to the east of the island began to ripen.  The supplies of
provisions, which had hitherto been regularly brought by the natives,
began to appear with less punctuality, and to fall off both in quantity
and quality.  The trinkets with which they were purchased had now been
distributed in such quantities that they began to lose their novelty and
value; sometimes the natives demanded a much higher price for the
provisions they brought, and (having by this time acquired the art of
bargaining) would take their stores away again if they did not get the
price they asked.

But even of this device they soon grew weary; from being irregular, the
supplies of provisions from some quarters ceased altogether, and the
possibilities of famine began to stare the unhappy castaways in the face.
It must be remembered that they were in a very weak physical condition,
and that among the so-called loyal remnant there were very few who were
not invalids; and they were unable to get out into the island and forage
for themselves.  If the able-bodied handful were to sally forth in search
of provisions, the hulks would be left defenceless and at the mercy of
the natives, of whose growing hostility the Admiral had by this time
discovered abundant evidence.  Thus little by little the food supply
diminished until there was practically nothing left, and the miserable
company of invalids were confronted with the alternative of either dying
of starvation or desperately attempting a canoe voyage.

It was from this critical situation that the spirit and resource of
Columbus once more furnished a way of escape, and in these circumstances
that he invented and worked a device that has since become famous--the
great Eclipse Trick.  Among his small library in the cabin of the ship
was the book containing the astronomical tables of Regiomontanus; and
from his study of this work he was aware that an eclipse of the moon was
due on a certain date near at hand.  He sent his Indian interpreter to
visit the neighbouring caciques, summoning them to a great conference to
be held on the evening of the eclipse, as the Admiral had matters of
great importance to reveal to them.  They duly arrived on the evening
appointed; not the caciques alone, but large numbers of the native
population, well prepared for whatever might take place.  Columbus then
addressed them through his interpreter, informing him that he was under
the protection of a God who dwelt in the skies and who rewarded all who
assisted him and punished all his enemies.  He made an effective use of
the adventures of Mendez and Porras, pointing out that Mendez, who took
his voyage by the Admiral’s orders, had got away in safety, but that
Porras and his followers, who had departed in disobedience and mutiny,
had been prevented by the heavenly power from achieving their object.  He
told them that his God was angry with them for their hostility and for
their neglect to supply him with provisions; and that in token of his
anger he was going to send them a dreadful punishment, as a sign of which
they would presently see the moon change colour and lose its light, and
the earth become dark.

This address was spun out as long as possible; but even so it was
followed by an interval in which, we may be sure, Columbus anxiously eyed
the serene orb of night, and doubtless prayed that Regiomontanus might
not have made a mistake in his calculations.  Some of the Indians were
alarmed, some of them contemptuous; but it was pretty clearly realised on
both sides that matters between them had come to a head; and probably if
Regiomontanus, who had worked out these tables of figures and
calculations so many years ago in his German home, had done his work
carelessly or made a mistake, Columbus and his followers would have been
massacred on the spot.  But Regiomontanus, God bless him!  had made no
mistake.  Sure enough, and punctually to the appointed time, the dark
shadow began to steal over the moon’s disc; its light gradually faded,
and a ghostly darkness crept over the face of the world.  Columbus,
having seen that all was right with the celestial machinery, had retired
to his cabin; and presently he found himself besieged there in the dark
night by crowds of natives frantically bringing what provisions they had
and protesting their intention of continuing to bring them for the rest
of their lives.  If only the Admiral would ask his God to forgive them,
there was no limit to the amount of provisions that he might have!  The
Admiral, piously thankful, and perhaps beginning to enjoy the situation a
little, kept himself shut up in his cabin as though communing with the
implacable deity, while the darkness deepened over the land and the shore
resounded with the howling and sobbing of the terrified natives.  He kept
a look-out on the sky; and when he saw that the eclipse was about to pass
away, he came out and informed the natives that God had decided to pardon
them on condition of their remaining faithful in the matter of
provisions, and that as a sign of His mercy He would restore the light.
The beautiful miracle went on through its changing phases; and, watching
in the darkness, the terrified natives saw the silver edge of the moon
appearing again, the curtain that had obscured it gradually rolling away,
and land and sea lying visible to them and once more steeped in the
serene light which they worshipped.  It is likely that Christopher slept
more soundly that night than he had slept for many nights before.



There was no further difficulty about provisions, which were punctually
brought by the natives on the old terms; but the familiar, spirit of
sedition began to work again among the unhappy Spaniards, and once more a
mutiny, led this time by the apothecary Bernardo, took form--the
intention being to seize the remaining canoes and attempt to reach
Espanola.  This was the point at which matters had arrived, in March
1504, when as the twilight was falling one evening a cry was raised that
there was a ship in sight; and presently a small caravel was seen
standing in towards the shore.  All ideas of mutiny were forgotten, and
the crew assembled in joyful anticipation to await, as they thought, the
coming of their deliverers.  The caravel came on with the evening breeze;
but while it was yet a long way off the shore it was seen to be lying to;
a boat was lowered and rowed towards the harbour.

As the boat drew near Columbus could recognise in it Diego de Escobar,
whom he remembered having condemned to death for his share in the
rebellion of Roldan.  He was not the man whom Columbus would have most
wished to see at that moment.  The boat came alongside the hulks, and a
barrel of wine and a side of bacon, the sea-compliment customary on such
occasions, was handed up.  Greatly to the Admiral’s surprise, however,
Escobar did not come on board, but pushed his boat off and began to speak
to Columbus from a little distance.  He told him that Ovando was greatly
distressed at the Admiral’s misfortunes; that he had been much occupied
by wars in Espanola, and had not been able to send a message to him
before; that he greatly regretted he had no ship at present large enough
to bring off the Admiral and his people, but that he would send one as
soon as he had it.  In the meantime the Admiral was to be assured that
all his affairs in Espanola were being attended to faithfully, and that
Escobar was instructed to bring back at once any letters which the
Admiral might wish to write.

The coolness and unexpectedness of this message completely took away
the breath of the unhappy Spaniards, who doubtless stood looking in
bewilderment from Escobar to Columbus, unable to believe that the caravel
had not been sent for their relief.  Columbus, however, with a
self-restraint which cannot be too highly praised, realised that Escobar
meant what he said, and that by protesting against his action or trying
to interfere with it he would only be putting himself in the wrong.  He
therefore retired immediately to his cabin and wrote a letter to Ovando,
in which he drew a vivid picture of the distress of his people, reported
the rebellion of the Porras brothers, and reminded Ovando that he relied
upon the fulfilment of his promise to send relief.  The letter was
handed over to Escobar, who rowed back with it to his caravel and
immediately sailed away with it into the night.

Before he could retire to commune with his own thoughts or to talk with
his faithful brother, Columbus had the painful duty of speaking to his
people, whose puzzled and disappointed faces must have cost him some
extra pangs.  He told them that he was quite satisfied with the message
from Ovando, that it was a sign of kindness on his part thus to send them
news in advance that relief was coming, that their situation was now
known in San Domingo, and that vessels would soon be here to take them
away.  He added that he himself was so sure of these things that he had
refused to go back with Escobar, but had preferred to remain with them
and share their lot until relief should come.  This had the desired
effect of cheering the Spaniards; but it was far from representing the
real sentiments of Columbus on the subject.  The fact that Escobar had
been chosen to convey this strange empty message of sympathy seemed to
him suspicious, and with his profound distrust of Ovando Columbus began
to wonder whether some further scheme might not be on foot to damage him
in the eyes of the Sovereigns.  He was convinced that Ovando had meant to
let him starve on the island, and that the real purpose of Escobar’s
visit had been to find out what condition the Admiral was in, so that
Ovando might know how to act.  It is very hard to get at the truth of
what these two men thought of each other.  They were both suspicious,
each was playing for his own hand, and Ovando was only a little more
unscrupulous than Columbus; but there can be no doubt that whatever his
motives may have been Ovando acted with abominable treachery and cruelty
in leaving the Admiral unrelieved for nearly nine months.

Columbus now tried to make use of the visit of Escobar to restore to
allegiance the band of rebels that were wandering about in the
neighbourhood under the leadership of the Porras brothers.  Why he should
have wished to bring them back to the ships is not clear, for by all
accounts he was very well rid of them; but probably his pride as a
commander was hurt by the thought that half of his company had defied his
authority and were in a state of mutiny.  At any rate he sent out an
ambassador to Porras, offering to receive the mutineers back without any
punishment, and to give them a free passage to Espanola in the vessels
which were shortly expected, if they would return to their allegiance
with him.

The folly of this overture was made manifest by the treatment which it
received.  It was bad enough to make advances to the Porras brothers, but
it was still worse to have those advances repulsed, and that is what
happened.  The Porras brothers, being themselves incapable of any
single-mindedness, affected not to believe in the sincerity of the
Admiral’s offer; they feared that he was laying some kind of trap for
them; moreover, they were doing very well in their lawless way, and
living very comfortably on the natives; so they told Columbus’s
ambassadors that his offer was declined.  At the same time they
undertook to conduct themselves in an amicable and orderly manner on
condition that, when the vessels arrived, one of them should be
apportioned to the exclusive use of the mutineers; and that in the
meantime the Admiral should share with them his store of provisions
and trinkets, as theirs were exhausted.

This was the impertinent decision of the Porras brothers; but it did not
quite commend itself to their followers, who were fearful of the possible
results if they should persist in their mutinous conduct.  They were very
much afraid of being left behind in the island, and in any case, having
attempted and failed in the main object of their mutiny, they saw no
reason why they should refuse a free pardon.  But the Porras brothers
lied busily.  They said that the Admiral was merely laying a trap in
order to get them into his power, and that he would send them home to
Spain in chains; and they even went so far as to assure their
fellow-rebels that the story of a caravel having arrived was not really
true; but that Columbus, who was an adept in the arts of necromancy, had
really made his people believe that they had seen a caravel in the dusk;
and that if one had really arrived it would not have gone away so
suddenly, nor would the Admiral and his brother and son have failed to
take their passage in it.

To consolidate the effect of these remarkable statements on the still
wavering mutineers, the Porras brothers decided to commit them to an open
act of violence which would successfully alienate them from the Admiral.
They formed them, therefore, into an armed expedition, with the idea of
seizing the stores remaining on the wreck and taking the Admiral
personally.  Columbus fortunately got news of this, as he nearly always
did when there was treachery in the wind; and he sent Bartholomew to try
to persuade them once more to return to their duty--a vain and foolish
mission, the vanity and folly of which were fully apparent to
Bartholomew.  He duly set out upon it; but instead of mild words he took
with him fifty armed men--the whole available able-bodied force, in
fact--and drew near to the position occupied by the rebels.

The exhortation of the Porras brothers had meanwhile produced its effect,
and it was decided that six of the strongest men among the mutineers
should make for Bartholomew himself and try to capture or kill him.  The
fierce Adelantado, finding himself surrounded by six assailants, who
seemed to be directing their whole effort against his life, swung his
sword in a berserk rage and slashed about him, to such good purpose that
four or five of his assailants soon lay round him killed or wounded.  At
this point Francisco de Porras rushed in and cleft the shield held by
Bartholomew, severely wounding the hand that held it; but the sword.
stuck in the shield, and while Porras was endeavouring to draw it out
Bartholomew and some others closed upon him, and after a sharp struggle
took him prisoner.  The battle, which was a short one, had been meanwhile
raging fiercely among the rest of the forces; but when the mutineers saw
their leader taken prisoner, and many of their number lying dead or
wounded, they scattered and fled, but not before Bartholomew’s force had
taken several prisoners.  It was then found that, although the rebels had
suffered heavily, none of Bartholomew’s men were killed, and only one
other besides himself was wounded.  The next day the mutineers all came
in to surrender, submitting an abject oath of allegiance; and Columbus,
always strangely magnanimous to rebels and insurgents, pardoned them all
with the exception of Francisco de Porras, who, one is glad to know, was
confined in irons to be sent to Spain for trial.

This submission, which was due to the prompt action of Bartholomew rather
than to the somewhat feeble diplomacy of the Admiral, took place on March
20th, and proved somewhat embarrassing to Columbus.  He could put no
faith in the oaths and protestations of the mutineers; and he was very
doubtful about the wisdom of establishing them once more on the wrecks
with the hitherto orderly remnant.  He therefore divided them up into
several bands, and placing each under the command of an officer whom he
could trust, he supplied them with trinkets and despatched them to
different parts of the island, for the purpose of collecting provisions
and carrying on barter with the natives.  By this means the last month or
two of this most trying and exciting sojourn on the island of Jamaica
were passed in some measure of peace; and towards the end of June it was
brought to an end by the arrival of two caravels.  One of them was the
ship purchased by Diego Mendez out of the three which had arrived from
Spain; and the other had been despatched by Ovando in deference, it is
said, to public feeling in San Domingo, which had been so influenced by
Mendez’s account of the Admiral’s heroic adventures that Ovando dared not
neglect him any longer.  Moreover, if it had ever been his hope that the
Admiral would perish on the island of Jamaica, that hope was now doomed
to frustration, and, as he was to be rescued in spite of all, Ovando no
doubt thought that he might as well, for the sake of appearances, have a
hand in the rescue.

The two caravels, laden with what was worth saving from the two abandoned
hulks, and carrying what was left of the Admiral’s company, sailed from
Jamaica on June 28, 1504.  Columbus’s joy, as we may imagine, was deep
and heartfelt.  He said afterwards to Mendez that it was the happiest day
of his life, for that he had never hoped to leave the place alive.

The mission of Mendez, then, had been successful, although he had had to
wait for eight months to fulfil it.  He himself, in accordance with
Columbus’s instructions, had gone to Spain in another caravel of the
fleet out of which he had purchased the relieving ship; and as he passes
out of our narrative we may now take our farewell of him.  Among the many
men employed in the Admiral’s service no figure stands out so brightly as
that of Diego Mendez; and his record, almost alone of those whose service
of the Admiral earned them office and distinction, is unblotted by any
stain of crime or treachery.  He was as brave as a lion and as faithful
as a dog, and throughout his life remained true to his ideal of service
to the Admiral and his descendants.  He was rewarded by King Ferdinand
for his distinguished services, and allowed to bear a canoe on his
coat-of-arms; he was with the Admiral at his death-bed at Valladolid,
and when he himself came to die thirty years afterwards in the same
place he made a will in which he incorporated a brief record of the
events of the adventurous voyage in which he had borne the principal
part, and also enshrined his devotion to the name and family of
Columbus.  His demands for himself were very modest, although there is
reason to fear that they were never properly fulfilled.  He was
curiously anxious to be remembered chiefly by his plucky canoe voyage;
and in giving directions for his tomb, and ordering that a stone should
be placed over his remains, he wrote: “In the centre of the said stone
let a canoe be carved, which is a piece of wood hollowed out in which
the Indians navigate, because in such a boat I navigated three hundred
leagues, and let some letters be placed above it saying: Canoa.”  The
epitaph that he chose for himself was in the following sense:

                   Here lies the Honourable Gentleman

                              DIEGO MENDEZ

             He greatly served the royal crown of Spain in
             the discovery and conquest of the Indies with
                the Admiral Don Christopher Columbus of
               glorious memory who discovered them, and
              afterwards by himself, with his own ships,
                         at his own expense.
                            He died, etc.
                  He begs from charity a PATERNOSTER
                           and an AVE MARIA.

Surely he deserves them, if ever an honourable gentleman did.



Although the journey from Jamaica to Espanola had been accomplished in
four days by Mendez in his canoe, the caravels conveying the party
rescued from Puerto Santa Gloria were seven weary weeks on this short
voyage; a strong north-west wind combining with the west-going current to
make their progress to the north-west impossible for weeks at a time.  It
was not until the 13th of August 1503 that they anchored in the harbour
of San Domingo, and Columbus once more set foot, after an absence of more
than two years, on the territory from the governorship of which he had
been deposed.

He was well enough received by Ovando, who came down in state to meet
him, lodged him in his own house, and saw that he was treated with the
distinction suitable to his high station.  The Spanish colony, moreover,
seemed to have made something of a hero of Columbus during his long
absence, and they received him with enthusiasm.  But his satisfaction in
being in San Domingo ended with that.  He was constantly made to feel
that it was Ovando and not he who was the ruler there;--and Ovando
emphasised the difference between them by numerous acts of highhanded
authority, some of them of a kind calculated to be extremely mortifying
to the Admiral.  Among these things he insisted upon releasing Porras,
whom Columbus had confined in chains; and he talked of punishing those
faithful followers of Columbus who had taken part in the battle between
Bartholomew and the rebels, because in this fight some of the followers
of Porras had been killed.  Acts like these produced weary bickerings and
arguments between Ovando and Columbus, unprofitable to them, unprofitable
to us.  The Admiral seems now to have relapsed into a condition in which
he cared only for two things, his honours and his emoluments.  Over every
authoritative act of Ovando’s there was a weary squabble between him and
the Admiral, Ovando claiming his right of jurisdiction over the whole
territory of the New World, including Jamaica, and Columbus insisting
that by his commission and letters of authority he had been placed in
sole charge of the members of his own expedition.

And then, as regards his emoluments, the Admiral considered himself (and
not without justice) to have been treated most unfairly.  By the
extravagant terms of his original agreement he was, as we know, entitled
to a share of all rents and dues, as well as of the gold collected; but
it had been no one’s business to collect these for him, and every one’s
business to neglect them.  No one had cared; no one had kept any accounts
of what was due to the Admiral; he could not find out what had been paid
and what had not been paid.  He accused Ovando of having impeded his
agent Carvajal in his duty of collecting the Admiral’s revenues, and of
disobeying the express orders of Queen Isabella in that matter; and so
on-a state of affairs the most wearisome, sordid, and unprofitable in
which any man could be involved.

And if Columbus turned his eyes from the office in San Domingo inland to
that Paradise which he had entered twelve years before, what change and
ruin, dreary, horrible and complete, did he not discover!  The birds
still sang, and the nights were still like May in Cordova; but upon that
happy harmony the sound of piteous cries and shrieks had long since
broken, and along and black December night of misery had spread its pall
over the island.  Wherever he went, Columbus found the same evidence of
ruin and desolation.  Where once innumerable handsome natives had
thronged the forests and the villages, there were now silence and smoking
ruin, and the few natives that he met were emaciated, terrified, dying.
Did he reflect, I wonder, that some part of the responsibility of all
this horror rested on him?  That many a system of island government, the
machinery of which was now fed by a steady stream of human lives, had
been set going by him in ignorance, or greed of quick commercial returns?
It is probable that he did not; for he now permanently regarded himself
as a much-injured man, and was far too much occupied with his own wrongs
to realise that they were as nothing compared with the monstrous stream
of wrong and suffering that he had unwittingly sent flowing into the

In the island under Ovando’s rule Columbus saw the logical results of his
own original principles of government, which had recognised the right of
the Christians to possess the persons and labours of the heathen natives.
Las Casas, who was living in Espanola as a young priest at this time, and
was destined by long residence there and in the West Indies to qualify
himself as their first historian, saw what Columbus saw, and saw also the
even worse things that happened in after years in Cuba and Jamaica; and
it is to him that we owe our knowledge of the condition of island affairs
at this time.  The colonists whom Ovando had brought out had come very
much in the spirit that in our own day characterised the rush to the
north-western goldfields of America.  They brought only the slightest
equipment, and were no sooner landed at San Domingo than they set out
into the island like so many picnic parties, being more careful to carry
vessels in which to bring back the gold they were to find than proper
provisions and equipment to support them in the labour of finding it.
The roads, says Las Casas, swarmed like ant-hills with these adventurers
rushing forth to the mines, which were about twenty-five miles distant
from San Domingo; they were in the highest spirits, and they made it a
kind of race as to who should get there first.  They thought they had
nothing to do but to pick up shining lumps of gold; and when they found
that they had to dig and delve in the hard earth, and to dig
systematically and continuously, with a great deal of digging for very
little gold, their spirits fell.  They were not used to dig; and it
happened that most of them began in an unprofitable spot, where they
digged for eight days without finding any gold.  Their provisions were
soon exhausted; and in a week they were back again in San Domingo, tired,
famished, and bitterly disappointed.  They had no genius for steady
labour; most of them were virtually without means; and although they
lived in San Domingo, on what they had as long as possible, they were
soon starving there, and selling the clothes off their backs to procure
food.  Some of them took situations with the other settlers, more fell
victims to the climate of the island and their own imprudences and
distresses; and a thousand of them had died within two years.

Ovando had revived the enthusiasm for mining by two enactments.  He
reduced the share of discovered gold payable to the Crown, and he
developed Columbus’s system of forced labour to such an extent that the
mines were entirely worked by it.  To each Spaniard, whether mining or
farming, so many natives were allotted.  It was not called slavery; the
natives were supposed to be paid a minute sum, and their employers were
also expected to teach them the Christian religion.  That was the plan.
The way in which it worked was that, a body of native men being allotted
to a Spanish settler for a period, say, of six or eight months--for the
enactment was precise in putting a period to the term of slavery--the
natives would be marched off, probably many days’ journey from their
homes and families, and set to work under a Spanish foreman.  The work,
as we have already seen, was infinitely harder than that to which they
were accustomed; and most serious of all, it was done under conditions
that took all the heart out of the labour.  A man will toil in his own
garden or in tilling his own land with interest and happiness, not
counting the hours which he spends there; knowing in fact that his work
is worth doing, because he is doing it for a good reason.  But put the
same man to work in a gang merely for the aggrandisement of some other
over-man; and the heart and cheerfulness will soon die out of him.

It was so with these children of the sun.  They were put to work ten
times harder than any they had ever done before, and they were put to it
under the lash.  The light diet of their habit had been sufficient to
support them in their former existence of happy idleness and dalliance,
and they had not wanted anything more than their cassava bread and a
little fish and fruit; now, however, they were put to work at a pressure
which made a very different kind of feeding necessary to them, and this
they did not get.  Now and then a handful of pork would be divided among
a dozen of them, but they were literally starved, and were accustomed to
scramble like dogs for the bones that were thrown from the tables of the
Spaniards, which bones they ground up and mixed with their, bread so that
no portion of them might be lost.  They died in numbers under these hard
conditions, and, compared with their lives, their deaths must often have
been happy.  When the time came for them to go home they were generally
utterly worn out and crippled, and had to face a long journey of many
days with no food to support them but what they could get on the journey;
and the roads were strewn with the dead bodies of those who fell by the

And far worse things happened to them than labour and exhaustion.  It
became the custom among the Spaniards to regard the lives of the natives
as of far less value than those of the dogs that were sometimes set upon
them in sport.  A Spaniard riding along would make a wager with his
fellow that he would cut the head off a native with one stroke of his
sword; and many attempts would be laughingly made, and many living bodies
hideously mutilated and destroyed, before the feat would be accomplished.
Another sport was one similar to pigsticking as it is practised in India,
except that instead of pigs native women and children were stuck with the
lances.  There was no kind of mutilation and monstrous cruelty that was
not practised.  If there be any powers of hell, they stalked at large
through the forests and valleys of Espanola.  Lust and bloody cruelty, of
a kind not merely indescribable but unrealisable by sane men and women,
drenched the once happy island with anguish and terror.  And in payment
for it the Spaniards undertook to teach the heathen the Christian

The five chiefs who had ruled with justice and wisdom over the island of
Espanola in the early days of Columbus were all dead, wiped out by the
wave of wild death and cruelty that had swept over the island.  The
gentle Guacanagari, when he saw the desolation that was beginning to
overwhelm human existence, had fled into the mountains, hiding his face
in shame from the sons of men, and had miserably died there.  Caonabo,
Lord of the House of Gold, fiercest and bravest of them all, who first
realised that the Spaniards were enemies to the native peace, after
languishing in prison in the house of Columbus at Isabella for some time,
had died in captivity during the voyage to Spain.  Anacaona his wife, the
Bloom of the Gold, that brave and beautiful woman, whose admiration of
the Spaniards had by their bloody cruelties been turned into detestation,
had been shamefully betrayed and ignominiously hanged.  Behechio, her
brother, the only cacique who did not sue for peace after the first
conquest of the island by Christopher and Bartholomew Columbus, was dead
long ago of wounds and sorrow.  Guarionex, the Lord of the Vega Real, who
had once been friendly enough, who had danced to the Spanish pipe and
learned the Paternoster and Ave Maria, and whose progress in conversion
to Christianity the seduction of his wives by those who were converting
him had interrupted, after wandering in the mountains of Ciguay had been
imprisoned in chains, and drowned in the hurricane of June 30, 1502.

The fifth chief, Cotabanama, Lord of the province of Higua, made the last
stand against Ovando in defence of the native right to existence, and was
only defeated after severe battles and dreadful slaughters.  His
territory was among the mountains, and his last insurrection was caused,
as so many others had been, by the intolerable conduct of the Spaniards
towards the wives and daughters of the Indians.  Collecting all his
warriors, Cotabanama attacked the Spanish posts in his neighbourhood.
At every engagement his troops were defeated and dispersed, but only to
collect again, fight again with even greater fury, be defeated and
dispersed again, and rally again against the Spaniards.  They literally
fought to the death.  After every battle the Spaniards made a massacre of
all the natives they could find, old men, children, and pregnant women
being alike put to the sword or burned in their houses.  When their
companions fell beside them, instead of being frightened they became more
furious; and when they were wounded they would pluck the arrows out of
their bodies and hurl them back at the Spaniards, falling dead in the
very act.  After one such severe defeat and massacre the natives
scattered for many months, hiding among the mountains and trying to
collect and succour their decimated families; but the Spaniards, who with
their dogs grew skilful at tracking the Indians and found it pleasant
sport, came upon them in the places of refuge where little groups of them
were sheltering their women and children, and there slowly and cruelly
slaughtered them, often with the addition of tortures and torments in
order to induce them to reveal the whereabouts of other bands.  When it
was possible the Spaniards sometimes hanged thirteen of them in a row in
commemoration of their Blessed Saviour and the Twelve Apostles; and while
they were hanging, and before they had quite died, they would hack at
them with their swords in order to test the edge of the steel.  At the
last stand, when the fierceness and bitterness of the contest rose to a
height on both sides, Cotabanama was captured and a plan made to broil
him slowly to death; but for some reason this plan was not carried out,
and the brave chief was taken to San Domingo and publicly hanged like a

After that there was never any more resistance; it was simply a case of
extermination, which the Spaniards easily accomplished by cutting of the
heads of women as they passed by, and impaling infants and little
children on their lances as they rode through the villages.  Thus, in the
twelve years since the discovery of Columbus, between half a million and
a million natives, perished; and as the Spanish colonisation spread
afterwards from island to island, and the banner of civilisation and
Christianity was borne farther abroad throughout the Indies, the same
hideous process was continued.  In Cuba, in Jamaica, throughout the
Antilles, the cross and the sword, the whip-lash and the Gospel advanced
together; wherever the Host was consecrated, hideous cries of agony and
suffering broke forth; until happily, in the fulness of time, the dire
business was complete, and the whole of the people who had inhabited this
garden of the world were exterminated and their blood and race wiped from
the face of the earth .  .  .  .  Unless, indeed, blood and race and hatred
be imperishable things; unless the faithful Earth that bred and reared
the race still keeps in her soil, and in the waving branches of the trees
and the green grasses, the sacred essences of its blood and hatred;
unless in the full cycle of Time, when that suffering flesh and blood
shall have gone through all the changes of substance and condition, from
corruption and dust through flowers and grasses and trees and animals
back into the living body of mankind again, it shall one day rise up
terribly to avenge that horror of the past.  Unless Earth and Time
remember, O Children of the Sun!  for men have forgotten, and on the soil
of your Paradise the African negro, learned in the vices of Europe,
erects his monstrous effigy of civilisation and his grotesque mockery of
freedom; unless it be through his brutish body, into which the blood and
hatred with which the soil of Espanola was soaked have now passed, that
they shall dreadfully strike at the world again.



On September 12, 1504., Christopher Columbus did many things for the last
time.  He who had so often occupied himself in ports and harbours with
the fitting out of ships and preparations for a voyage now completed at
San Domingo the simple preparations for the last voyage he was to take.
The ship he had come in from Jamaica had been refitted and placed under
the command of Bartholomew, and he had bought another small caravel in
which he and his son were to sail.  For the last time he superintended
those details of fitting out and provisioning which were now so familiar
to him; for the last time he walked in the streets of San Domingo and
mingled with the direful activities of his colony; he looked his last
upon the place where the vital scenes of his life had been set, for the
last time weighed anchor, and took his last farewell of the seas and
islands of his discovery.  A little steadfast looking, a little straining
of the eyes, a little heart-aching no doubt, and Espanola has sunk down
into the sea behind the white wake of the ships; and with its fading away
the span of active life allotted to this man shuts down, and his powerful
opportunities for good or evil are withdrawn.

There was something great and heroic about the Admiral’s last voyage.
Wind and sea rose up as though to make a last bitter attack upon the man
who had disclosed their mysteries and betrayed their secrets.  He had
hardly cleared the island before the first gale came down upon him and
dismasted his ship, so that he was obliged to transfer himself and his
son to Bartholomew’s caravel and send the disabled vessel back to
Espanola.  The shouting sea, as though encouraged by this triumph, hurled
tempest after tempest upon the one lonely small ship that was staggering
on its way to Spain; and the duel between this great seaman and the vast
elemental power that he had so often outwitted began in earnest.  One
little ship, one enfeebled man to be destroyed by the power of the sea:
that was the problem, and there were thousands of miles of sea-room, and
two months of time to solve it in!  Tempest after tempest rose and drove
unceasingly against the ship.  A mast was sprung and had to be cut away;
another, and the woodwork from the forecastles and high stern works had
to be stripped and lashed round the crazy mainmast to preserve it from
wholesale destruction.  Another gale, and the mast had to be shortened,
for even reinforced as it was it would not bear the strain; and so
crippled, so buffeted, this very small ship leapt and staggered on her
way across the Atlantic, keeping her bowsprit pointed to that region of
the foamy emptiness where Spain was.

The Admiral lay crippled in his cabin listening to the rush and bubble of
the water, feeling the blows and recoils of the unending battle,
hearkening anxiously to the straining of the timbers and the vessel’s
agonised complainings under the pounding of the seas.  We do not know
what his thoughts were; but we may guess that they looked backward rather
than forward, and that often they must have been prayers that the present
misery would come somehow or other to an end.  Up on deck brother
Bartholomew, who has developed some grievous complaint of the jaws and
teeth--complaint not known to us more particularly, but dreadful enough
from that description--does his duty also, with that heroic manfulness
that has marked his whole career; and somewhere in the ship young
Ferdinand is sheltering from the sprays and breaking seas, finding his
world of adventure grown somewhat gloomy and sordid of late, and feeling
that he has now had his fill of the sea .  .  .  .  Shut your eyes and
let the illusions of time and place fade from you; be with them for a
moment on this last voyage; hear that eternal foaming and crashing of
great waves, the shrieking of wind in cordage, the cracking and slatting
of the sails, the mad lashing of loose ropes; the painful swinging, and
climbing up and diving down, and sinking and staggering and helpless
strivings of the small ship in the waste of water.  The sea is as empty
as chaos, nothing for days and weeks but that infinite tumbling surface
and heaven of grey storm-clouds; a world of salt surges encircled by
horizons of dim foam.  Time and place are nothing; the agony and pain of
such moments are eternal.

But the two brothers, grim and gigantic in their sea power, subtle as the
wind itself in their sea wit, win the battle.  Over the thousands of
miles of angry surges they urge that small ship towards calm and safety;
until one day the sea begins to abate a little, and through the spray and
tumult of waters the dim loom of land is seen.  The sea falls back
disappointed and finally conquered by Christopher Columbus, whose ship,
battered, crippled, and strained, comes back out of the wilderness of
waters and glides quietly into the smooth harbour of San Lucar, November
7, 1504.  There were no guns or bells to greet the Admiral; his only
salute was in the thunder of the conquered seas; and he was carried
ashore to San Lucar, and thence to Seville, a sick and broken man.



Columbus, for whom rest and quiet were the first essentials, remained in
Seville from November 1504 to May 1505, when he joined the Court at
Segovia and afterwards at Salamanca and Valladolid, where he remained
till his death in May 1506.  During this last period, when all other
activities were practically impossible to him, he fell into a state of
letter-writing--for the most part long, wearisome complainings and
explainings in which he poured out a copious flood of tears and self-pity
for the loss of his gold.

It has generally been claimed that Columbus was in bitter penury and want
of money, but a close examination of the letters and other documents
relating to this time show that in his last days he was not poor in any
true sense of the word.  He was probably a hundred times richer than any
of his ancestors had ever been; he had, money to give and money to spend;
the banks honoured his drafts; his credit was apparently indisputable.
But compared with the fabulous wealth to which he would by this time have
been entitled if his original agreement with the Crown of Spain had been
faithfully carried out he was no doubt poor.  There is no evidence that
he lacked any comfort or alleviation that money could buy; indeed he
never had any great craving for the things that money can buy--only for
money itself.  There must have been many rich people in Spain who would
gladly have entertained him in luxury and dignity; but he was not the
kind of man to set much store by such things except in so far as they
were a decoration and advertisement of his position as a great man.  He
had set himself to the single task of securing what he called his rights;
and in these days of sunset he seems to have been illumined by some
glimmer of the early glory of his first inspiration.  He wanted the
payment of his dues now, not so much for his own enrichment, but as a
sign to the world that his great position as Admiral and Viceroy was
recognised, so that his dignities and estates might be established and
consolidated in a form which he would be able to transmit to his remote

Since he wrote so copiously and so constantly in these last days, the
best picture of his mood and condition is afforded in his letters to his
son Diego; letters which, in spite of their infinitely wearisome
recapitulation and querulous complaint, should be carefully read by those
who wish to keep in touch with the Admiral to the end.

     Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
     November 21, 1504.

     “VERY DEAR SON,--I received your letter by the courier.  You did
     well in remaining yonder to remedy our affairs somewhat and to
     employ yourself now in our business.  Ever since I came to Castile,
     the Lord Bishop of Palencia has shown me favour and has desired that
     I should be honoured.  Now he must be entreated that it may please
     him to occupy himself in remedying my many grievances and in
     ordering that the agreement and letters of concession which their
     Highnesses gave me be fulfilled, and that I be indemnified for so
     many damages.  And he may be certain that if their Highnesses do
     this, their estate and greatness will be multiplied to them in an
     incredible degree.  And it must not appear to him that forty
     thousand pesos in gold is more than a representation of it; because
     they might have had a much greater quantity if Satan had not
     hindered it by impeding my design; for, when I was taken away from
     the Indies, I was prepared to give them a sum of gold incomparable
     to forty thousand pesos.  I make oath, and this may be for thee
     alone, that the damage to me in the matter of the concessions their
     Highnesses have made to me, amounts to ten millions each year, and
     never can be made good.  You see what will be, or is, the injury to
     their Highnesses in what belongs to them, and they do not perceive
     it.  I write at their disposal and will strive to start yonder.  My
     arrival and the rest is in the hands of our Lord.  His mercy is
     infinite.  What is done and is to be done, St. Augustine says is
     already done before the creation of the world.  I write also to
     these other Lords named in the letter of Diego Mendez.  Commend me
     to their mercy and tell them of my going as I have said above.  For
     certainly I feel great fear, as the cold is so inimical to this, my
     infirmity, that I may have to remain on the road.

     “I was very much pleased to hear the contents of your letter and
     what the King our Lord said, for which you kissed his royal hands.
     It is certain that I have served their Highnesses with as much
     diligence and love as though it had been to gain Paradise, and more,
     and if I have been at fault in anything it has been because it was
     impossible or because my knowledge and strength were not sufficient.
     God, our Lord, in such a case, does not require more from persons
     than the will.

     “At the request of the Treasurer Morales, I left two brothers in the
     Indies, who are called Porras.  The one was captain and the other
     auditor.  Both were without capacity for these positions: and I was
     confident that they could fill them, because of love for the person
     who sent them to me.  They both became more vain than they had been.
     I forgave them many incivilities, more than I would do with a
     relation, and their offences were such that they merited another
     punishment than a verbal reprimand.  Finally they reached such a
     point that even had I desired, I could not have avoided doing what I
     did.  The records of the case will prove whether I lie or not.  They
     rebelled on the island of Jamaica, at which I was as much astonished
     as I would be if the sun’s rays should cast darkness.  I was at the
     point of death, and they martyrised me with extreme cruelty during
     five months and without cause.  Finally I took them all prisoners,
     and immediately set them free, except the captain, whom I was
     bringing as a prisoner to their Highnesses.  A petition which they
     made to me under oath, and which I send you with this letter, will
     inform you at length in regard to this matter, although the records
     of the case explain it fully.  These records and the Notary are
     coming on another vessel, which I am expecting from day to day.  The
     Governor in Santo Domingo took this prisoner.--His courtesy
     constrained him to do this.  I had a chapter in my instructions in
     which their Highnesses ordered all to obey me, and that I should
     exercise civil and criminal justice over all those who were with me:
     but this was of no avail with the Governor, who said that it was not
     understood as applying in his territory.  He sent the prisoner to
     these Lords who have charge of the Indies without inquiry or record
     or writing.  They did not receive him, and both brothers go free.
     It is not wonderful to me that our Lord punishes.  They went there
     with shameless faces.  Such wickedness or such cruel treason were
     never heard of.  I wrote to their Highnesses about this matter in
     the other letter, and said that it was not right for them to consent
     to this offence.  I also wrote to the Lord Treasurer that I begged
     him as a favour not to pass sentence on the testimony given by these
     men until he heard me.  Now it will be well for you to remind him of
     it anew.  I do, not know how they dare to go before him with such an
     undertaking.  I have written to him about it again and have sent him
     the copy of the oath, the same as I send to you and likewise to
     Doctor Angulo and the Licentiate Zapata.  I commend myself to the
     mercy of all, with the information that my departure yonder will
     take place in a short time.

     “I would be glad to receive a letter from their Highnesses and to
     know what they order.  You must procure such a letter if you see the
     means of so doing.  I also commend myself to the Lord Bishop and to
     Juan Lopez, with the reminder of illness and of the reward for my

     “You must read the letters which go with this one in order to act in
     conformity with what they say.  Acknowledge the receipt of his
     letter to Diego Mendez.  I do not write him as he will learn
     everything from you, and also because my illness prevents it.

     “It would be well for Carbajal and Jeronimo--[Jeronimo de Aguero, a
     landowner in Espanola and a friend of Columbus]--to be at the-Court
     at this time, and talk of our affairs with these Lords and with the

     “Done in Seville, November 21.

     “Your father who loves you more than himself.

                                                 Xpo FERENS.”

     “I wrote again to their Highnesses entreating them to order that
     these people who went with me should be paid, because they are poor
     and it is three years since they left their homes.  The news which
     they bring is more than extraordinary.  They have endured infinite
     dangers and hardships.  I did not wish to rob the country, so as not
     to cause scandal, because reason advises its being populated, and
     then gold will be obtained freely without scandal.  Speak of this to
     the Secretary and to the Lord Bishop and to Juan Lopez and to
     whomever you think it advisable to do so.”

The Bishop of Palencia referred to in this letter is probably Bishop
Fonseca--probably, because it is known that he did become Bishop of
Palencia, although there is a difference of opinion among historians as
to whether the date of his translation to that see was before or after
this letter.  No matter, except that one is glad to think that an old
enemy--for Fonseca and Columbus had bitter disagreements over the fitting
out of various expeditions--had shown himself friendly at last.

     Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, November 28,

     “VERY DEAR SON,--I received your letters of the 15th of this month.
     It is eight days since I wrote you and sent the letter by a courier.
     I enclosed unsealed letters to many other persons, in order that you
     might see them, and having read them, seal and deliver them.
     Although this illness of mine troubles me greatly, I am preparing
     for my departure in every way.  I would very much like to receive
     the reply from their Highnesses and wish you might procure it: and
     also I wish that their Highnesses would provide for the payment of
     these poor people, who have passed through incredible hardships and
     have brought them such great news that infinite thanks should be
     given to God, our Lord, and they should rejoice greatly over it.
     If I [lie ?] the ‘Paralipomenon’--[ The Book of Chronicles]--and
     the Book of Kings and the Antiquities of Josephus, with very many
     others, will tell what they know of this.  I hope in our Lord to
     depart this coming week, but you must not write less often on that
     account.  I have not heard from Carbajal and Jeronimo.  If they are
     there, commend me to them.  The time is such that both Carbajals
     ought to be at Court, if illness does not prevent them.  My regards
     to Diego Mendez.

     “I believe that his truth and efforts will be worth as much as the
     lies of the Porras brothers.  The bearer of this letter is Martin de
     Gamboa.  I am sending by him a letter to Juan Lopez and a letter of
     credit.  Read the letter to Lopez and then give it to him.  If you
     write me, send the letters to Luis de Soria that he may send them
     wherever I am, because if I go in a litter, I believe it will be by
     La Plata.--[The old Roman road from Merida to Salamanca.]--May our
     Lord have you in His holy keeping.  Your uncle has been very sick
     and is now, from trouble with his jaws and his teeth.

     “Done in Seville, November 28.

     “Your father who loves you more than himself.

                                                 Xpo FERENS.”

Bartholomew Columbus and Ferdinand were remaining with Christopher at
Seville; Bartholomew probably very nearly as ill as the Admiral, although
we do not hear so many complaints about it.  At any rate Diego, being ay
Court, was the great mainstay of his father; and you can see the sick man
sitting there alone with his grievances, and looking to the next
generation for help in getting them redressed.  Diego, it is to be
feared, did not receive these letters with so much patience and attention
as he might have shown, nor did he write back to his invalid father with
the fulness and regularity which the old man craved.  It is a fault
common to sons.  Those who are sons will know that it does not
necessarily imply lack of affection on Diego’s part; those who are
fathers will realise how much Christopher longed for verbal assurance of
interest and affection, even though he did not doubt their reality.  News
of the serious illness of Queen Isabella had evidently reached Columbus,
and was the chief topic of public interest.

     Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
     December 1, 1504.

     “VERY DEAR SON,--Since I received your letter of November 15 I have
     heard nothing from you.  I wish that you would write me more
     frequently.  I would like to receive a letter from you each hour.
     Reason must tell you that now I have no other repose.  Many couriers
     come each day, and the news is of such a nature and so abundant that
     on hearing it all my hair stands on end; it is so contrary to what
     my soul desires.  May it please the Holy Trinity to give health to
     the Queen, our Lady, that she may settle what has already been
     placed under discussion.  I wrote you by another courier Thursday,
     eight days ago.  The courier must already be on his way back here.
     I told you in that letter that my departure was certain, but that
     the hope of my arrival there, according to experience, was very
     uncertain, because my sickness is so bad, and the cold is so well
     suited to aggravate it, that I could not well avoid remaining in
     some inn on the road.  The litter and everything were ready.  The
     weather became so violent that it appeared impossible to every one
     to start when it was getting so bad, and that it was better for so
     well-known a person as myself to take care of myself and try to
     regain my health rather than place myself in danger.  I told you in
     those letters what I now say, that you decided well in remaining
     there (at such a time), and that it was right to commence occupying
     yourself with our affairs; and reason strongly urges this.  It
     appears to me that a good copy should be made of the chapter of that
     letter which their Highnesses wrote me where they say they will
     fulfil their promises to me and will place you in possession of
     everything: and that this copy should be given to them with another
     writing telling of my sickness, and that it is now impossible for me
     to go and kiss their Royal feet and hands, and that the Indies are
     being lost, and are on fire in a thousand places, and that I have
     received nothing, and am receiving nothing, from the revenues
     derived from them, and that no one dares to accept or demand
     anything there for me, and I am living upon borrowed funds.  I spent
     the money which I got there in bringing those people who went with
     me back to their homes, for it would be a great burden upon my
     conscience to have left them there and to have abandoned them.  This
     must be made known to the Lord Bishop of Palencia, in whose favour
     I have so much confidence, and also to the Lord Chamberlain.
     I believed that Carbajal and Jeronimo would be there at such a time.
     Our Lord is there, and He will order everything as He knows it to be
     best for us.

     “Carbajal reached here yesterday.  I wished to send him immediately
     with this same order, but he excused himself profusely, saying that
     his wife was at the point of death.  I shall see that he goes,
     because he knows a great deal about these affairs.  I will also
     endeavour to have your brother and your uncle go to kiss the hands
     of Their Highnesses, and give them an account of the voyage if my
     letters are not sufficient.  Take good care of your brother.  He has
     a good disposition, and is no longer a boy.  Ten brothers would not
     be too many for you.  I never found better friends to right or to
     left than my brothers.  We must strive to obtain the government of
     the Indies and then the adjustment of the revenues.  I gave you a
     memorandum which told you what part of them belongs to me.  What
     they gave to Carbajal was nothing and has turned to nothing.
     Whoever desires to do so takes merchandise there, and so the eighth
     is nothing, because, without contributing the eighth, I could send
     to trade there without rendering account or going in company with
     any one.  I said a great many times in the past that the
     contribution of the eighth would come to nothing.  The eighth and
     the rest belongs to me by reason of the concession which their
     Highnesses made to me, as set forth in the book of my Privileges,
     and also the third and the tenth.  Of the tenth I received nothing,
     except the tenth of what their Highnesses receive; and it must be
     the tenth of all the gold and other things which are found and
     obtained, in whatever manner it may be, within this Admiralship, and
     the tenth of all the merchandise which goes and comes from there,
     after the expenses are deducted.  I have already said that in the
     Book of Privileges the reason for this and for the rest which is
     before the Tribunal of the Indies here in Seville, is clearly set

     “We must strive to obtain a reply to my letter from their
     Highnesses, and to have them order that these people be paid.  I
     wrote in regard to this subject four days ago, and sent the letter
     by Martin de Gamboa, and you must have seen the letter of Juan Lopez
     with your own.

     “It is said here that it has been ordered that three or four Bishops
     of the Indies shall be sent or created, and that this matter is
     referred to the Lord Bishop of Palencia.  After having commended me
     to his Worship, tell him that I believe it will best serve their
     Highnesses for me to talk with him before this matter is settled.

     “Commend me to Diego Mendez, and show him this letter.  My illness
     permits me to write only at night, because in the daytime my hands
     are deprived of strength.  I believe that a son of Francisco Pinelo
     will carry this letter.  Entertain him well, because he does
     everything for me that he can, with much love and a cheerful
     goodwill.  The caravel which broke her mast in starting from Santo
     Domingo has arrived in the Algarves.  She brings the records of the
     case of the Porras brothers.  Such ugly things and such grievous
     cruelty as appear in this matter never were seen.  If their
     Highnesses do not punish it, I do not know who will dare to go out
     in their service with people.

     “To-day is Monday.  I will endeavour to have your uncle and brother
     start to-morrow.  Remember to write me very often, and tell Diego
     Mendez to write at length.  Each day messengers go from here yonder.
     May our Lord have you in His Holy keeping.

     “Done in Seville, December 1.

     “Your father who loves you as himself.

                                                 Xpo FERENS.”

The gout from which the Admiral suffered made riding impossible to him,
and he had arranged to have himself carried to Court on a litter when he
was able to move.  There is a grim and dismal significance in the
particular litter that had been chosen: it was no other than the funeral
bier which belonged to the Cathedral of Seville and had been built for
Cardinal Mendoza.  A minute of the Cathedral Chapter records the granting
to Columbus of the use of this strange conveyance; but one is glad to
think that he ultimately made his journey in a less grim though more
humble method.  But what are we to think of the taste of a man who would
rather travel in a bier, so long as it had been associated with the
splendid obsequies of a cardinal, than in the ordinary litter of
every-day use?  It is but the old passion for state and splendour thus
dismally breaking out again.

He speaks of living on borrowed funds and of having devoted all his
resources to the payment of his crew; but that may be taken as an
exaggeration.  He may have borrowed, but the man who can borrow easily
from banks cannot be regarded as a poor man.  One is nevertheless
grateful for these references, since they commemorate the Admiral’s
unfailing loyalty to those who shared his hardships, and his unwearied
efforts to see that they received what was due to them.  Pleasant also
are the evidences of warm family affection in those simple words of
brotherly love, and the affecting advice to Diego that he should love his
brother Ferdinand as Christopher loved Bartholomew.  It is a pleasant
oasis in this dreary, sordid wailing after thirds and tenths and eighths.
Good Diego Mendez, that honourable gentleman, was evidently also at Court
at this time, honestly striving, we may be sure, to say a good word for
the Admiral.

Some time after this letter was written, and before the writing of the
next, news reached Seville of the death of Queen Isabella.  For ten years
her kind heart had been wrung by many sorrows.  Her mother had died in
1496; the next year her only son and heir to the crown had followed; and
within yet another year had died her favourite daughter, the Queen of
Portugal.  Her other children were all scattered with the exception of
Juana, whose semi-imbecile condition caused her parents an anxiety
greater even than that caused by death.  As Isabella’s life thus closed
sombrely in, she applied herself more closely and more narrowly to such
pious consolations as were available.  News from Flanders of the
scandalous scenes between Philip and Juana in the summer of 1504 brought
on an illness from which she really never recovered, a kind of feverish
distress of mind and body in which her only alleviation was the
transaction of such business as was possible for her in the direction of
humanity and enlightenment.  She still received men of intellect and
renown, especially travellers.  But she knew that her end was near, and
as early as October she had made her will, in which her wishes as to the
succession and government of Castile were clearly laid down.  There was
no mention of Columbus in this will, which afterwards greatly mortified
him; but it is possible that the poor Queen had by this time, even
against her wish, come to share the opinions of her advisers that the
rule of Columbus in the West Indies had not brought the most humane and
happy results possible to the people there.

During October and November her life thus beat itself away in a
succession of duties faithfully performed, tasks duly finished,
preparations for the great change duly made.  She died, as she would have
wished to die, surrounded by friends who loved and admired her, and
fortified by the last rites of the Church for her journey into the
unknown.  Date, November 26, 1504, in the fifty-fourth year of her age.

Columbus had evidently received the news from a public source, and felt
mortified that Diego should not have written him a special letter.

     Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
     December 3, 1504.

     “VERY DEAR SON,--I wrote you at length day before yesterday and sent
     it by Francisco Pinelo, and with this letter I send you a very full
     memorandum.  I am very much astonished not to receive a letter from
     you or from any one else, and this astonishment is shared by all who
     know me.  Every one here has letters, and I, who have more reason to
     expect them, have none.  Great care should be taken about this
     matter.  The memorandum of which I have spoken above says enough,
     and on this account I do not speak more at length here.  Your
     brother and your uncle and Carbajal are going yonder.  You will
     learn from them what is not said here.  May our Lord have you in His
     Holy keeping.

     “Done in Seville, December 3.

     “Your father who loves you more than himself.

                                                 Xpo FERENS.”

     Document of COLUMBUS addressed to his Son, DIEGO, and intended to
     accompany the preceding letter.

     “A memorandum for you, my very dear son, Don Diego, of what occurs
     to me at the present time which must be done:--The principal thing
     is, affectionately and with great devotion to commend the soul of
     the Queen, our Lady, to God.  Her life was always Catholic and Holy
     and ready for all the things of His holy service, and for this
     reason it must be believed that she is in His holy glory and beyond
     the desires of this rough and wearisome world.  Then the next thing
     is to be watchful and exert one’s self in the service of the King,
     our Lord, and to strive to keep him from being troubled.  His
     Highness is the head of Christendom.  See the proverb which says
     that when the head aches, all the members ache.  So that all good
     Christians should entreat that he may have long life and health: and
     those of us who are obliged to serve him more than others must join
     in this supplication with great earnestness and diligence.  This
     reason prompts me now with my severe illness to write you what I am
     writing here, that his Highness may dispose matters for his service:
     and for the better fulfilment I am sending your brother there, who,
     although he is a child in days, is not a child in understanding; and
     I am sending your uncle and Carbajal, so that if this, my writing,
     is not sufficient, they, together with yourself, can furnish verbal
     evidence.  In my opinion there is nothing so necessary for the
     service of his Highness as the disposition and remedying of the
     affair of the Indies.

     “His Highness must now have there more than 40,000 or 50,000 gold
     pieces.  I learned when I was there that the Governor had no desire
     to send it to him.  It is believed among the other people as well
     that there will be 150,000 pesos more, and the mines are very rich
     and productive.  Most of the people there are common and ignorant,
     and care very little for the circumstances.  The Governor is very
     much hated by all of them, and it is to be feared that they may at
     some time rebel.  If this should occur, which God forbid, the remedy
     for the matter would then be difficult: and so it would be if
     injustice were used toward them, either here or in other places,
     with the great fame of the gold.  My opinion is that his Highness
     should investigate this affair quickly and by means of a person who
     is interested and who can go there with 150 or 200 people well
     equipped, and remain there until it is well settled and without
     suspicion, which cannot be done in less than three months: and that
     an endeavour be made to raise two or three forces there.  The gold
     there is exposed to great risk, as there are very few people to
     protect it.  I say that there is a proverb here which says that the
     presence of the owner makes the horse fat.  Here and wherever I may
     be, I shall serve their Highnesses with joy, until my soul leaves
     this body.

     “Above I said that his Highness is the head of the Christians, and
     that it is necessary for him to occupy himself in preserving them
     and their lands.  For this reason people say that he cannot thus
     provide a good government for all these Indies, and that they are
     being lost and do not yield a profit, neither are they being handled
     in a reasonable manner.  In my opinion it would serve him to intrust
     this matter to some one who is distressed over the bad treatment of
     his subjects.

     “I wrote a very long letter to his Highness as soon as I arrived
     here, fully stating the evils which require a prompt and efficient
     remedy at once.  I have received no reply, nor have I seen any
     provision made in the matter.  Some vessels are detained in San
     Lucar by the weather.  I have told these gentlemen of the Board of
     Trade that they must order them held until the King, our Lord, makes
     provision in the matter, either by some person with other people,
     or by writing.  This is very necessary and I know what I say.  It is
     necessary that the authorities should order all the ports searched
     diligently, to see that no one goes yonder to the Indies without
     licence.  I have already said that there is a great deal of gold
     collected in straw houses without any means of defence, and there
     are many disorderly people in the country, and that the Governor is
     hated, and that little punishment is inflicted and has been
     inflicted upon those who have committed crimes and have come out
     with their treasonable conduct approved.

     “If his Highness decides to make some provision, it must be done at
     once, so that these vessels may not be injured.

     “I have heard that three Bishops are to be elected and sent to
     Espanola.  If it pleases his Highness to hear me before concluding
     this matter, I will tell in what manner God our Lord may be well
     served and his Highness served and satisfied.

     “I have given lengthy consideration to the provision for Espanola:”

Yes, the Queen is in His Holy Glory, and beyond the desires of this rough
and wearisome world; but we are not; we are still in a world where fifty
thousand gold pieces can be of use to us, and where a word spoken in
season, even in such a season of darkness, may have its effect with the
King.  A strange time to talk to the King about gold; and perhaps Diego
was wiser and kinder than his father thought in not immediately taking
this strange document to King Ferdinand.

     Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
     December 13, 1504

     “VERY DEAR SON,--It is now eight days since your uncle and your
     brother and Carbajal left here together, to kiss the royal hands of
     his Highness, and to give an account of the voyage, and also to aid
     you in the negotiation of whatever may prove to be necessary there.

     “Don Ferdinand took from here 150 ducats to be expended at his
     discretion.  He will have to spend some of it, but he will give you
     what he has remaining.  He also carries a letter of credit for these
     merchants.  You will see that it is very necessary to be careful in
     dealing with them, because I had trouble there with the Governor, as
     every one told me that I had there 11,000 or 12,000 castellanos, and
     I had only 4000.  He wished to charge me with things for which I am
     not indebted, and I, confiding in the promise of their Highnesses,
     who ordered everything restored to me, decided to leave these
     charges in the hope of calling him to account for them.  If any one
     has money there, they do not dare ask for it, on account of his
     haughtiness.  I very well know that after my departure he must have
     received more than 5000 castellanos.  If it were possible for you to
     obtain from his Highness an authoritative letter to the Governor,
     ordering him to send the money without delay and a full account of
     what belongs to me, by the person I might send there with my power
     of attorney, it would be well; because he will not give it in any
     other manner, neither to my friend Diaz or Velasquez, and they dare
     not even speak of it to him.  Carbajal will very well know how this
     must be done.  Let him see this letter.  The 150 ducats which Luis
     de Soria sent you when I came are paid according to his desire.

     “I wrote you at length and sent the letter by Don Ferdinand, also a
     memorandum.  Now that I have thought over the matter further, I say
     that, since at the time of my departure their Highnesses said over
     their signature and verbally, that they would give me all that
     belongs to me, according to my privileges--that the claim for the
     third or the tenth and eighth mentioned in the memorandum must be
     relinquished, and instead the chapter of their letter must be shown
     where they write what I have said, and all that belongs to me must
     be required, as you have it in writing in the Book of Privileges, in
     which is also set forth the reason for my receiving the third,
     eighth, and tenth; as there is always an opportunity to reduce the
     sum desired by a person, although his Highness says in his letter
     that he wishes to give me all that belongs to me.  Carbajal will
     understand me very well if he sees this letter, and every one else
     as well, as it is very clear.  I also wrote to his Highness and
     finally reminded him that he must provide at once for this affair of
     the Indies, that the people there may not be disturbed, and also
     reminding him of the promise stated above.  You ought to see the

     “With this letter I send you another letter of credit for the said
     merchants.  I have already explained to you the reasons why expenses
     should be moderated.  Show your uncle due respect, and treat your
     brother as an elder brother should treat a younger.  You have no
     other brother, and praised be our Lord, he is such a one as you need
     very much.  He has proved and proves to be very intelligent.  Honour
     Carbajal and Jeronimo and Diego Mendez.  Commend me to them all.  I
     do not write them as there is nothing to write and this messenger is
     in haste.  It is frequently rumoured here that the Queen, whom God
     has, has left an order that I be restored to the possession of the
     Indies.  On arrival, the notary of the fleet will send you the
     records and the original of the case of the Porras brothers.  I have
     received no news from your uncle and brother since they left.  The
     water has been so high here that the river entered the city.

     “If Agostin Italian and Francisco de Grimaldo do not wish to give
     you the money you need, look for others there who are willing to
     give it to you.  On the arrival here of your signature I will at
     once pay them all that you have received: for at present there is
     not a person here by whom I can send you money.

     “Done to-day, Friday, December 13, 1504

     “Your father who loves you more than himself.

                                                 Xpo FERENS.”

     Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to his Son, DON DIEGO,
     December 21, 1504.

     “VERY DEAR SON, The Lord Adelantado and your brother and Carbajal
     left here sixteen days ago to go to the Court.  They have not
     written me since.  Don Ferdinand carried 150 ducats.  He must spend
     what is necessary, and he carries a letter, that the merchants may
     furnish you with money.  I have sent you another letter since, with
     the endorsement of Francisco de Ribarol, by Zamora, the courier, and
     told you that if you had made provision for yourself by means of my
     letter, not to use that of Francisco de Ribarol.  I say the same now
     in regard to another letter which I send you with this one, for
     Francisco Doria, which letter I send you for greater security that
     you may not fail to be provided with money.  I have already told you
     how necessary it is to be careful in the expenditure of the money,
     until their Highnesses give us law and justice.  I also told you
     that I had spent 1200 castellanos in bringing these people to
     Castile, of which his Highness owes me the greater part, and I wrote
     him in regard to it asking him to order the account settled.

     “If possible I should like to receive letters here each day.  I
     complain of Diego Mendez and of Jeronimo, as they do not write me:
     and then of the others who do not write when they arrive there.  We
     must strive to learn whether the Queen, whom God has in His keeping,
     said anything about me in her will, and we must hurry the Lord
     Bishop of Palencia, who caused the possession of the Indies by their
     Highnesses and my remaining in Castile, for I was already on my way
     to leave it.  And the Lord Chamberlain of his Highness must also be
     hurried.  If by chance the affair comes to discussion, you must
     strive to have them see the writing which is in the Book of
     Privileges, which shows the reason why the third, eighth, and tenth
     are owing me, as I told you in another letter.

     “I have written to the Holy Father in regard to my voyage, as he
     complained of me because I did not write him.  I send you a copy of
     the letter.  I would like to have the King, our Lord, or the Lord
     Bishop of Palencia see it before I send the letter, in order to
     avoid false representations.

     “Camacho has told a thousand falsehoods about me.  To my regret I
     ordered him arrested.  He is in the church.  He says that after the
     Holidays are past, he will go there if he is able.  If I owe him, he
     must show by what reason; for I make oath that I do not know it, nor
     is it true.

     “If without importunity a licence can be procured for me to go on
     mule-back, I will try to leave for the Court after January, and I
     will even go without this licence.  But haste must be made that the
     loss of the Indies, which is now imminent, may not take place.  May
     our Lord have you in His keeping.

     “Done to-day, December 21.

     “Your father who loves you more than himself.

                                                 Xpo FERENS.”

     “This tenth which they give me is not the tenth which was promised
     me.  The Privileges tell what it is, and there is also due me the
     tenth of the profit derived from merchandise and from all other
     things, of which I have received nothing.  Carbajal understands me
     well.  Also remind Carbajal to obtain a letter from his Highness for
     the Governor, directing him to send his accounts and the money I
     have there, at once.  And it would be well that a Repostero of his
     Highness should go there to receive this money, as there must be a
     large amount due me.  I will strive to have these gentlemen of the
     Board of Trade send also to say to the Governor that he must send my
     share together with the gold belonging to their Highnesses.  But the
     remedy for the other matter must not be neglected there on this
     account.  I say that 7000 or 8000 pesos must have passed to my
     credit there, which sum has been received since I left, besides the
     other money which was not given to me.

     “To my very dear son Don Diego at the Court.”

All this struggling for the due payment of eighths and tenths makes
wearisome reading, and we need not follow the Admiral into his
distinctions between one kind of tenth and another.  There is something
to be said on his side, it must be remembered; the man had not received
what was due to him; and although he was not in actual poverty, his only
property in this world consisted of these very thirds and eighths and
tenths.  But if we are inclined to think poorly of the Admiral for his
dismal pertinacity, what are we to think of the people who took advantage
of their high position to ignore consistently the just claims made upon

There is no end to the Admiral’s letter-writing at this time.
Fortunately for us his letter to the Pope has been lost, or else we
should have to insert it here; and we have had quite enough of his
theological stupors.  As for the Queen’s will, there was no mention of
the Admiral in it; and her only reference to the Indies showed that she
had begun to realise some of the disasters following his rule there, for
the provisions that are concerned with the New World refer exclusively to
the treatment of the natives, to whose succour, long after they were past
succour, the hand of Isabella was stretched out from the grave.  The
licence to travel on mule-back which the Admiral asked for was made
necessary by a law which had been passed forbidding the use of mules for
this purpose throughout Spain.  There had been a scarcity of horses for
mounting the royal cavalry, and it was thought that the breeding of
horses had been neglected on account of the greater cheapness and utility
of mules.  It was to encourage the use and breeding of horses that an
interdict was laid on the use of mules, and only the very highest persons
in the land were allowed to employ them.

Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to his Son, DON DIEGO,
December 29, 1504.

     “VERY DEAR SON,--I wrote you at length and sent it by Don Ferdinand,
     who left to go yonder twenty-three days ago to-day, with the Lord
     Adelantado and Carbajal, from whom I have since heard nothing.
     Sixteen days ago to-day I wrote you and sent it by Zamora, the
     courier, and I sent you a letter of credit for these merchants
     endorsed by Francisco de Ribarol, telling them to give you the money
     you might ask for.  And then, about eight days ago, I sent you by
     another courier a letter endorsed by Francisco Soria, and these
     letters are directed to Pantaleon and Agostin Italian, that they may
     give it to you.  And with these letters goes a copy of a letter
     which I wrote to the Holy Father in regard to the affairs of the
     Indies, that he might not complain of me any more.  I sent this copy
     for his Highness to see, or the Lord Bishop of Palencia, so as to
     avoid false representations.  The payment of the people who went
     with me has been delayed.  I have provided for them here what I have
     been able.  They are poor and obliged to go in order to earn a
     living.  They decided to go yonder.  They have been told here that
     they will be dealt with as favourably as possible, and this is
     right, although among them there are some who merit punishment more
     than favours.  This is said of the rebels.  I gave these people a
     letter for the Lord Bishop of Palencia.  Read it, and if it is
     necessary for them to go and petition his Highness, urge your uncle
     and brother and Carbajal to read it also, so that you can all help
     them as much as possible.  It is right and a work of mercy, for no
     one ever earned money with so many dangers and hardships and no one
     has ever rendered such great service as these people.  It is said
     that Camacho and Master Bernal wish to go there--two creatures for
     whom God works few miracles: but if they go, it will be to do harm
     rather than good.  They can do little because the truth always
     prevails, as it did in Espanola, from which wicked people by means
     of falsehoods have prevented any profit being received up to the
     present time.  It is said that this Master Bernal was the beginning
     of the treason.  He was taken and accused of many misdemeanours,
     for each one of which he deserved to be quartered.  At the request
     of your uncle and of others he was pardoned, on condition that if he
     ever said the least word against me and my state the pardon should
     be revoked and he should be under condemnation.  I send you a copy
     of the case in this letter.  I send you a legal document about
     Camacho.  For more than eight days he has not left the church on
     account of his rash statements and falsehoods.  He has a will made
     by Terreros, and other relatives of the latter have another will of
     more recent date, which renders the first will null, as far as the
     inheritance is concerned: and I am entreated to enforce the latter
     will, so that Camacho will be obliged to restore what he has
     received.  I shall order a legal document drawn up and served upon
     him, because I believe it is a work of mercy to punish him, as he is
     so unbridled in his speech that some one must punish him without the
     rod: and it will not be so much against the conscience of the
     chastiser, and will injure him more.  Diego Mendez knows Master
     Bernal and his works very well.  The Governor wished to imprison him
     at Espanola and left him to my consideration.  It is said that he
     killed two men there with medicines in revenge for something of less
     account than three beans.  I would be glad of the licence to travel
     on muleback and of a good mule, if they can be obtained without
     difficulty.  Consult all about our affairs, and tell them that I do
     not write them in particular on account of the great pain I feel
     when writing.  I do not say that they must do the same, but that
     each one must write me and very often, for I feel great sorrow that
     all the world should have letters from there each day, and I have
     nothing, when I have so many people there.  Commend me to the Lord
     Adelantado in his favour, and give my regards to your brother and to
     all the others.

     “Done at Seville, December 29.

     “Your father who loves you more than himself.

                                                 Xpo FERENS.”

“I say further that if our affairs are to be settled according to
conscience, that the chapter of the letter which their Highnesses wrote
me when I departed, in which they say they will order you placed in
possession, must be shown; and the writing must also be shown which is in
the Book of Privileges, which shows how in reason and in justice the
third and eighth and the tenth are mine.  There will always be
opportunity to make reductions from this amount.”

Columbus’s requests were not all for himself; nothing could be more
sincere or generous than the spirit in which he always strove to secure
the just payment of his mariners.

Otherwise he is still concerned with the favour shown to those who were
treasonable to him.  Camacho was still hiding in a church, probably from
the wrath of Bartholomew Columbus; but Christopher has more subtle ways
of punishment.  A legal document, he considers, will be better than a
rod; “it will not be so much against the conscience of the chastiser, and
will injure him (the chastised) more.”

     Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
     January 18, 1505.

     “VERY DEAR SON,--I wrote you at length by the courier who will
     arrive there to-day, and sent you a letter for the Lord Chamberlain.
     I intended to inclose in it a copy of that chapter of the letter
     from their Highnesses in which they say they will order you placed
     in possession; but I forgot to do it here.  Zamora, the courier,
     came.  I read your letter and also those of your uncle and brother
     and Carbajal, and felt great pleasure in learning that they had
     arrived well, as I had been very anxious about them.  Diego Mendez
     will leave here in three or four days with the order of payment
     prepared.  He will take a long statement of everything and I will
     write to Juan Velasquez.  I desire his friendship and service.  I
     believe that he is a very honourable gentleman.  If the Lord Bishop
     of Palencia has come, or comes, tell him how much pleased I have
     been with his prosperity, and that if I go there I must stop with
     his Worship even if he does not wish it, and that we must return to
     our first fraternal love.  And that he could not refuse it because
     my service will force him to have it thus.  I said that the letter
     for the Holy Father was sent that his Worship might see it if he was
     there, and also the Lord Archbishop of Seville, as the King might
     not have opportunity to read it.  I have already told you that the
     petition to their Highnesses must be for the fulfilment of what they
     wrote me about the possession and of the rest which was promised me.
     I said that this chapter of the letter must be shown them and said
     that it must not be delayed, and that this is advisable for an
     infinite number of reasons.  His Highness may believe that, however
     much he gives me, the increase of his exalted dominions and revenue
     will be in the proportion of 100 to 1, and that there is no
     comparison between what has been done and what is to be done.  The
     sending of a Bishop to Espanola must be delayed until I speak to his
     Highness.  It must not be as in the other cases when it was thought
     to mend matters and they were spoiled.  There have been some cold
     days here and they have caused me great fatigue and fatigue me now.
     Commend me to the favour of the Lord Adelantado.  May our Lord guard
     and bless you and your brother.  Give my regards to Carbajal and
     Jeronimo.  Diego Mendez will carry a full pouch there.  I believe
     that the affair of which you wrote can be very easily managed.  The
     vessels from the Indies have not arrived from Lisbon.  They brought
     a great deal of gold, and none for me.  So great a mockery was never
     seen, for I left there 60,000 pesos smelted.  His Highness should
     not allow so great an affair to be ruined, as is now taking place.
     He now sends to the Governor a new provision.  I do not know what it
     is about.  I expect letters each day.  Be very careful about
     expenditures, for it is necessary.

     “Done January 18.
     “Your father who loves you more than himself.

There is playful reference here to Fonseca, with whom Columbus was
evidently now reconciled; and he was to be buttonholed and made to read
the Admiral’s letter to the Pope.  Diego Mendez is about to start, and is
to make a “long statement”; and in the meantime the Admiral will write as
many long letters as he has time for.  Was there no friend at hand, I
wonder, with wit enough to tell the Admiral that every word he wrote
about his grievances was sealing his doom, so far as the King was
concerned?  No human being could have endured with patience this
continuous heavy firing at long range to which the Admiral subjected his
friends at Court; every post that arrived was loaded with a shrapnel of
grievances, the dull echo of which must have made the ears of those who
heard it echo with weariness.  Things were evidently humming in Espanola;
large cargoes of negroes had been sent out to take the place of the dead
natives, and under the harsh driving of Ovando the mines were producing
heavily.  The vessels that arrived from the Indies brought a great deal
of gold; “but none for me.”

     Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to his Son, DON DIEGO,
     February 5, 1505.

     “VERY DEAR SON,--Diego Mendez left here Monday, the 3rd of this
     month.  After his departure I talked with Amerigo Vespucci, the
     bearer of this letter, who is going yonder, where he is called in
     regard to matters of navigation.  He was always desirous of pleasing
     me.  He is a very honourable man.  Fortune has been adverse to him
     as it has been to many others.  His labours have not profited him as
     much as reason demands.  He goes for me, and is very desirous of
     doing something to benefit me if it is in his power.  I do not know
     of anything in which I can instruct him to my benefit, because I do
     not know what is wanted of him there.  He is going with the
     determination to do everything for me in his power.  See what he can
     do to profit me there, and strive to have him do it; for he will do
     everything, and will speak and will place it in operation: and it
     must all be done secretly so that there may be no suspicion.

     “I have told him all that could be told regarding this matter, and
     have informed him of the payment which has been made to me and is
     being made.  This letter is for the Lord Adelantado also, that he
     may see how Amerigo Vespucci can be useful, and advise him about it.
     His Highness may believe that his ships went to the best and richest
     of the Indies, and if anything remains to be learned more than has
     been told, I will give the information yonder verbally, because it
     is impossible to give it in writing.  May our Lord have you in his
     Holy keeping.

     “Done in Seville, February 5.

     “Your father who loves you more than himself.

This letter has a significance which raises it out of the ruck of this
complaining correspondence.  Amerigo Vespucci had just returned from his
long voyage in the West, when he had navigated along an immense stretch
of the coast of America, both north and south, and had laid the
foundations of a fame which was, for a time at least, to eclipse that of
Columbus.  Probably neither of the two men realised it at this interview,
or Columbus would hardly have felt so cordially towards the man who was
destined to rob him of so much glory.  As a matter of fact the practical
Spaniards were now judging entirely by results; and a year or two later,
when the fame of Columbus had sunk to insignificance, he was merely
referred to as the discoverer of certain islands, while Vespucci, who
after all had only followed in his lead, was hailed as the discoverer of
a great continent.  Vespucci has been unjustly blamed for this state of
affairs, although he could no more control the public estimate of his
services than Columbus could.  He was a more practical man than Columbus,
and he made a much better impression on really wise and intelligent men;
and his discoveries were immediately associated with trade and colonial
development, while Columbus had little to show for his discoveries during
his lifetime but a handful of gold dust and a few cargoes of slaves.  At
any rate it was a graceful act on the part of Vespucci, whose star was in
the ascendant, to go and seek out the Admiral, whose day was fast verging
to night; it was one of those disinterested actions that live and have a
value of their own, and that shine out happily amid the surrounding murk
and confusion.

     Letter signed by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son,
     February 25, 1505.

     “VERY DEAR SON,--The Licientiate de Zea is a person whom I desire to
     honour.  He has in his charge two men who are under prosecution at
     the hands of justice, as shown by the information which is inclosed
     in this letter.  See that Diego Mendez places the said petition with
     the others, that they may be given to his Highness during Holy Week
     for pardon.  If the pardon is granted, it is well, and if not, look
     for some other manner of obtaining it.  May our Lord have you in His
     Holy keeping.  Done in Seville, February 25, 1505.  I wrote you and
     sent it by Amerigo Vespucci.  See that he sends you the letter
     unless you have already received it.

     “Your father.
                    Xpo FERENS.//”

This is the last letter of Columbus known to us otherwise an entirely
unimportant document, dealing with the most transient affairs.  With it
we gladly bring to an end this exposure of a greedy and querulous period,
which speaks so eloquently for itself that the less we say and comment on
it the better.

In the month of May the Admiral was well enough at last to undertake the
journey to Segovia.  He travelled on a mule, and was accompanied by his
brother Bartholomew and his son Ferdinand.  When he reached the Court he
found the King civil and outwardly attentive to his recitals, but
apparently content with a show of civility and outward attention.
Columbus was becoming really a nuisance; that is the melancholy truth.
The King had his own affairs to attend to; he was already meditating a
second marriage, and thinking of the young bride he was to bring home to
the vacant place of Isabella; and the very iteration of Columbus’s
complaints and demands had made them lose all significance for the King.
He waved them aside with polite and empty promises, as people do the
demands of importunate children; and finally, to appease the Admiral and
to get rid of the intolerable nuisance of his applications, he referred
the whole question, first to Archbishop DEA, and then to the body of
councillors which had been appointed to interpret Queen Isabella’s will.
The whole question at issue was whether or not the original agreement
with Columbus, which had been made before his discoveries, should be
carried out.  The King, who had foolishly subscribed to it simply as a
matter of form, never believing that anything much could come of it, was
determined that it should not be carried out, as it would give Columbus a
wealth and power to which no mere subject of a crown was entitled.  The
Admiral held fast to his privileges; the only thing that he would consent
to submit to arbitration was the question of his revenues; but his titles
and territorial authorities he absolutely stuck to.  Of course the
council did exactly what the King had done.  They talked about the thing
a great deal, but they did nothing.  Columbus was an invalid and broken
man, who might die any day, and it was obviously to their interest to
gain time by discussion and delay--a cruel game for our Christopher, who
knew his days on earth to be numbered, and who struggled in that web of
time in which mortals try to hurry the events of the present and delay
the events of the future.  Meanwhile Philip of Austria and his wife
Juana, Isabella’s daughter, had arrived from Flanders to assume the crown
of Castile, which Isabella had bequeathed to them.  Columbus saw a chance
for himself in this coming change, and he sent Bartholomew as an envoy to
greet the new Sovereigns, and to enlist their services on the Admiral’s
behalf.  Bartholomew was very well received, but he was too late to be of
use to the Admiral, whom he never saw again; and this is our farewell to
Bartholomew, who passes out of our narrative here.  He went to Rome after
Christopher’s death on a mission to the Pope concerning some fresh
voyages of discovery; and in 1508 he made, so far as we know, his one
excursion into romance, when he assisted at the production of an
illegitimate little girl--his only descendant.  He returned to Espanola
under the governorship of his nephew Diego, and died there in 1514
--stern, valiant, brotherly soul, whose devotion to Christopher must be
for ever remembered and honoured with the name of the Admiral.

From Segovia Columbus followed the Court to Salamanca and thence to
Valladolid, where his increasing illness kept him a prisoner after the
Court had left to greet Philip and Juana.  He had been in attendance upon
it for nearly a year, and without any results: and now, as his infirmity
increased, he turned to the settling of his own affairs, and drawing up
of wills and codicils--all very elaborate and precise.  In these
occupations his worldly affairs were duly rounded off; and on May 19,
1506, having finally ratified a will which he had made in Segovia a year
before, in which the descent of his honours was entailed upon Diego and
his heirs, or failing him Ferdinand and his heirs, or failing him
Bartholomew and his heirs, he turned to the settlement of his soul.

His illness had increased gradually but surely, and he must have known
that he was dying.  He was not without friends, among them the faithful
Diego Mendez, his son Ferdinand, and a few others.  His lodging was in a
small house in an unimportant street of Valladolid, now called the “Calle
de Colon”; the house, .No. 7, still standing, and to be seen by curious
eyes.  As the end approached, the Admiral, who was being attended by
Franciscan monks, had himself clothed in a Franciscan habit; and so, on
the 20th May 1506, he lay upon his bed, breathing out his life.

               .  .  .  And as strange thoughts
               Grow with a certain humming in my ears,
               About the life before I lived this life,
               And this life too, Popes, Cardinals, and priests,
               Your tall pale mother with her talking eyes
               And new-found agate urns fresh as day .  .  .

.  .  .  we do not know what his thoughts were, as the shadows grew
deeper about him, as the sounds of the world, the noises from the sunny
street, grew fainter, and the images and sounds of memory clearer and
louder.  Perhaps as he lay there with closed eyes he remembered things
long forgotten, as dying people do; sounds and smells of the Vico Dritto
di Ponticelli, and the feel of the hot paving-stones down which his
childish feet used to run to the sea; noises of the sea also, the
drowning swish of waters and sudden roar of breakers sounding to
anxiously strained ears in the still night; bright sunlit pictures of
faraway tropical shores, with handsome olive figures glistening in the
sun; the sight of strange faces, the sound of strange speech, the smell
of a strange land; the glitter of gold; the sudden death-shriek breaking
the stillness of some sylvan glade; the sight of blood on the grass
.  .  .  The Admiral’s face undergoes a change; there is a stir in the
room; some one signs to the priest Gaspar, who brings forth his sacred
wafer and holy oils and administers the last sacraments.  The wrinkled
eyelids flutter open, the sea-worn voice feebly frames the responses;
the dying eyes are fixed on the crucifix; and--“In manus tuas Domine
commendo spiritum meum.”  The Admiral is dead.

He was in his fifty-sixth year, already an old man in body and mind; and
his death went entirely unmarked except by his immediate circle of
friends.  Even Peter Martyr, who was in Valladolid just before and just
after it, and who was writing a series of letters to various
correspondents giving all the news of his day, never thought it worth
while to mention that Christopher Columbus was dead.  His life flickered
out in the completest obscurity.  It is not even known where he was first
buried; but probably it was in the Franciscan convent at Valladolid.
This, however, was only a temporary resting-place; and a few years later
his body was formally interred in the choir of the monastery of Las
Cuevas at Seville, there to lie for thirty years surrounded by continual
chauntings.  After that it was translated to the cathedral in San
Domingo; rested there for 250 years, and then, on the cession of that
part of the island to France, the body was removed to Cuba.  But the
Admiral was by this time nothing but a box of bones and dust, as also
were brother Bartholomew and son Diego, and Diego’s son, all collected
together in that place.  There were various examinations of the
bone-boxes; one, supposed to be the Admiral’s, was taken to Cuba and
solemnly buried there; and lately, after the conquest of the island in
the Spanish-American War, this box of bones was elaborately conveyed to
Seville, where it now rests.

But in the meanwhile the Chapter of the cathedral in San Domingo had made
new discoveries and examinations; had found another box of bones, which
bore to them authentic signs that the dust it contained was the Admiral’s
and not his grandson’s; and in spite of the Academy of History at Madrid,
it is indeed far from unlikely that the Admiral’s dust does not lie in
Spain or Cuba, but in San Domingo still.  Whole books have been written
about these boxes of bones; learned societies have argued about them,
experts have examined the bones and the boxes with microscopes; and
meantime the dust of Columbus, if we take the view that an error was
committed in the transference to Cuba, is not even collected all in one
box.  A sacrilegious official acquired some of it when the boxes were
opened, and distributed it among various curiosity-hunters, who have
preserved it in caskets of crystal and silver.  Thus a bit of him is worn
by an American lady in a crystal locket; a pinch of him lies
in a glass vial in a New York mansion; other pinches in the Lennox
Library, New York, in the Vatican, and in the University of Pavia.  In
such places, if the Admiral should fail to appear at the first note of
their trumpets, must the Angels of the Resurrection make search.



It is not in any leaden box or crystal vase that we must search for the
true remains of Christopher Columbus.  Through these pages we have
traced, so far as has been possible, the course of his life, and followed
him in what he did; all of which is but preparation for our search for
the true man, and just estimate of what he was.  We have seen, dimly,
what his youth was; that he came of poor people who were of no importance
to the world at large; that he earned his living as a working man; that
he became possessed of an Idea; that he fought manfully and diligently
until he had realised it; and that then he found himself in a position
beyond his powers to deal with, not being a strong enough swimmer to hold
his own in the rapid tide of events which he himself had set flowing; and
we have seen him sinking at last in that tide, weighed down by the very
things for which he had bargained and stipulated.  If these pages had
been devoted to a critical examination of the historical documents on
which his life-story is based we should also have found that he
continually told lies about himself, and misrepresented facts when the
truth proved inconvenient to him; that he was vain and boastful to a
degree that can only excite our compassion.  He was naturally and
sincerely pious, and drew from his religion much strength and spiritual
nourishment; but he was also capable of hypocrisy, and of using the
self-same religion as a cloak for his greed and cruelty.  What is the
final image that remains in our minds of such a man?  To answer this
question we must examine his life in three dimensions.  There was its
great outline of rise, zenith, and decline; there was its outward
history in minute detail, and its conduct in varying circumstances; and
there was the inner life of the man’s soul, which was perhaps simpler
than some of us think.  And first, as to his life as a single thing.  It
rose in poverty, it reached a brief and dazzling zenith of glory, it set
in clouds and darkness; the fame of it suffered a long night of eclipse,
from which it was rescued and raised again to a height of glory which
unfortunately was in sufficiently founded on fact; and as a reaction
from this, it has been in danger of becoming entirely discredited, and
the man himself denounced as a fraud.  The reason for these surprising
changes is that in those fifty-five years granted to Columbus for the
making of his life he did not consistently listen to that inner voice
which alone can hold a man on any constructive path.  He listened to it
at intervals, and he drew his inspiration from it; but he shut his ears
when it had served him, when it had brought him what he wanted.  In his
moments of success he guided himself by outward things; and thus he was
at one moment a seer and ready to be a martyr, and at the next moment he
was an opportunist, watching to see which way the wind would blow, and
ready to trim his sails in the necessary direction.  Such conduct of a
man’s life does not make for single light or for true greatness; rather
for dim, confused lights, and lofty heights obscured in cloud.

If we examine his life in detail we find this alternating principle of
conduct revealed throughout it.  He was by nature clever, kind-hearted,
rather large-souled, affectionate, and not very honest; all the acts
prompted by his nature bear the stamp of these qualities.  To them his
early years had probably added little except piety, sharp practice, and
that uncomfortable sense, often bred amid narrow and poor surroundings,
that one must keep a sharp look-out for oneself if one is to get a share
of the world’s good things.  Something in his blood, moreover, craved for
dignity and the splendour of high-sounding titles; craved for power also,
and the fulfilment of an arrogant pride.  All these things were in his
Ligurian blood, and he breathed them in with the very air of Genoa.  His
mind was of the receptive rather than of the constructive kind, and it
was probably through those long years spent between sea voyages and brief
sojourns with his family in Genoa or Savona that he conceived that vague
Idea which, as I have tried to show, formed the impulse of his life
during its brief initiative period.  Having once received this Idea of
discovery and like all other great ideas, it was in the air at the time
and was bound to take shape in some human brain--he had all his native
and personal qualities to bring to its support.  The patience to await
its course he had learned from his humble and subordinate life.  The
ambition to work for great rewards was in his blood and race; and to
belief in himself, his curious vein of mystical piety was able to add the
support of a ready belief in divine selection.  This very time of waiting
and endurance of disappointments also helped to cultivate in his
character two separate qualities--an endurance or ability to withstand
infinite hardship and disappointment; and also a greedy pride that
promised itself great rewards for whatever should be endured.

In all active matters Columbus was what we call a lucky man.  It was luck
that brought him to Guanahani; and throughout his life this element of
good luck continually helped him.  He was lucky, that is to say, in his
relation with inanimate things; but in his relations with men he was
almost as consistently unlucky.  First of all he was probably a bad judge
of men.  His humble origin and his lack of education naturally made him
distrustful.  He trusted people whom he should have regarded with
suspicion, and he was suspicious of those whom he ought to have known he
could trust.  If people pleased him, he elevated them with absurd
rapidity to stations far beyond their power to fill, and then wondered
that they sometimes turned upon him; if they committed crimes against
him, he either sought to regain their favour by forgiving them, or else
dogged them with a nagging, sulky resentment, and expected every one else
to punish them also.  He could manage men if he were in the midst of
them; there was something winning as well as commanding about his actual
presence, and those who were devoted to him would have served him to the
death.  But when he was not on the spot all his machineries and affairs
went to pieces; he had no true organising ability; no sooner did he take
his hand off any affair for which he was responsible than it immediately
came to confusion.  All these defects are to be attributed to his lack of
education and knowledge of the world.  Mental discipline is absolutely
necessary for a man who would discipline others; and knowledge of the
world is essential for one who would successfully deal with men, and
distinguish those whom he can from those whom he cannot trust.  Defects
of this nature, which sometimes seem like flaws in the man’s character,
may be set down to this one disability--that he was not educated and was
not by habit a man of the world.

All his sins of misgovernment, then, may be condoned on the ground that
governing is a science, and that Columbus had never learned it.  What we
do find, however, is that the inner light that had led him across the
seas never burned clearly for him again, and was never his guide in the
later part of his life.  Its radiance was quenched by the gleam of gold;
for there is no doubt that Columbus was a victim of that baleful
influence which has caused so much misery in this world.  He was greedy
of gold for himself undoubtedly; but he was still more greedy of it for
Spain.  It was his ambition to be the means of filling the coffers of the
Spanish Sovereigns and so acquiring immense dignity and glory for
himself.  He believed that gold was in itself a very precious and
estimable thing; he knew that masses and candles could be bought for it,
and very real spiritual privileges; and as he made blunder after blunder,
and saw evil after evil heaping itself on his record in the New World, he
became the more eager and frantic to acquire such a treasure of gold that
it would wipe out the other evils of his administration.  And once
involved in that circle, there was no help for him.

The man himself was a simple man; capable, when the whole of his various
qualities were directed upon one single thing, of that greatness which is
the crown of simplicity.  Ambition was the keynote of his life; not an
unworthy keynote, by any means, if only the ambition be sound; but one
serious defect of Columbus’s ambition was that it was retrospective
rather than perspective.  He may have had, before he sailed from Palos,
an ambition to be the discoverer of a New World; but I do not think he
had.  He believed there were islands or land to be discovered in the West
if only he pushed on far enough; and he was ambitious to find them and
vindicate his belief.  Afterwards, when he had read a little more, and
when he conceived the plan of pretending that he had all along meant to
discover the Indies and a new road to the East, he acted in accordance
with that pretence; he tried to make his acts appear retrospectively as
though they had been prompted by a design quite different from that by
which they had really been prompted.  When he found that his discovery
was regarded as a great scientific feat, he made haste to pretend that it
had all along been meant as such, and was in fact the outcome of an
elaborate scientific theory.  In all this there is nothing for praise or
admiration.  It indicates the presence of moral disease; but fortunately
it is functional rather than organic disease.  He was right and sound at
heart; but he spread his sails too readily to the great winds of popular
favour, and the result was instability to himself, and often danger of
shipwreck to his soul.

The ultimate test of a man’s character is how he behaves in certain
circumstances when there is no great audience to watch him, and when
there is no sovereign close at hand with bounties and rewards to offer.
In a word, what matters most is a man’s behaviour, not as an admiral, or
a discoverer, or a viceroy, or a courtier, but as a man.  In this respect
Columbus’s character rings true.  If he was little on little occasions,
he was also great on great occasions.  The inner history of his fourth
voyage, if we could but know it and could take all the circumstances into
account, would probably reveal a degree of heroic endurance that has
never been surpassed in the history of mankind.  Put him as a man face to
face with a difficulty, with nothing but his wits to devise with and his
two hands to act with, and he is never found wanting.  And that is the
kind of man of whom discoverers are made.  The mere mathematician may
work out the facts with the greatest accuracy and prove the existence of
land at a certain point; but there is great danger that he may be knocked
down by a club on his first landing on the beach, and never bring home
any news of his discovery.  The great courtier may do well for himself
and keep smooth and politic relations with kings; the great administrator
may found a wonderful colony; but it is the man with the wits and the
hands, and some bigness of heart to tide him over daunting passages, that
wins through the first elementary risks of any great discovery.  Properly
considered, Columbus’s fame should rest simply on the answer to the
single question, “Did he discover new lands as he said he would?”  That
was the greatest thing he could do, and the fact that he failed to do a
great many other things afterwards, failed the more conspicuously because
his attempts were so conspicuous, should have no effect on our estimate
of his achievement.  The fame of it could no more be destroyed by himself
than it can be destroyed by us.

True understanding of a man and estimate of his character can only be
arrived at by methods at once more comprehensive and more subtle than
those commonly employed among men.  Everything that he sees, does, and
suffers has its influence on the moulding of his character; and he must
be considered in relation to his physical environment, no less than to
his race and ancestry.  Christopher Columbus spent a great part of his
active life on the sea; it was sea-life which inspired him with his great
Idea, it was by the conquest of the sea that he realised it; it was on
the sea that all his real triumphs over circumstance and his own weaker
self were won.  The influences at work upon a man whose life is spent on
the sea are as different from those at work upon one who lives on the
fields as the environment of a gannet is different from the environment
of a skylark: and yet how often do we really attempt to make due
allowance for this great factor and try to estimate the extent of its
moulding influence?

To live within sound or sight of the sea is to be conscious of a voice or
countenance that holds you in unyielding bonds.  The voice, being
continuous, creeps into the very pulses and becomes part of the pervading
sound or silence of a man’s environment; and the face, although it never
regards him, holds him with its changes and occupies his mind with its
everlasting riddle.  Its profound inattention to man is part of its power
over his imagination; for although it is so absorbed and busy, and has
regard for sun and stars and a melancholy frowning concentration upon the
foot of cliffs, it is never face to face with man: he can never come
within the focus of its great glancing vision.  It is somewhere beyond
time and space that the mighty perspective of those focal rays comes to
its point; and they are so wide and eternal in their sweep that we should
find their end, could we but trace them, in a condition far different
from that in which our finite views and ethics have place.  In the man
who lives much on the sea we always find, if he be articulate, something
of the dreamer and the mystic; that very condition of mind, indeed, which
we have traced in Columbus, which sometimes led him to such heights, and
sometimes brought him to such variance with the human code.

A face that will not look upon you can never give up its secret to you;
and the face of the sea is like the face of a picture or a statue round
which you may circle, looking at it from this point and from that, but
whose regard is fixed on something beyond and invisible to you; or it is
like the face of a person well known to you in life, a face which you
often see in various surroundings, from different angles, now
unconscious, now in animated and smiling intercourse with some one else,
but which never turns upon you the light of friendly knowledge and
recognition; in a word, it is unconscious of you, like all elemental
things.  In the legend of the Creation it is written that when God saw
the gathering together of the waters which he called the Seas, he saw
that it was good; and he perhaps had the right to say so.  But the man
who uses the sea and whose life’s pathway is laid on its unstable surface
can hardly sum up his impressions of it so simply as to say that it is
good.  It is indeed to him neither good nor bad; it is utterly beyond and
outside all he knows or invents of good and bad, and can never have any
concern with his good or his bad.  It remains the pathway and territory
of powers and mysteries, thoughts and energies on a gigantic and
elemental scale; and that is why the mind of man can never grapple with
the unconsciousness of the sea or his eye meet its eye.  Yet it is the
mariner’s chief associate, whether as adversary or as ally; his attitude
to things outside himself is beyond all doubt influenced by his attitude
towards it; and a true comprehension of the man Columbus must include a
recognition of this constant influence on him, and of whatever effect
lifelong association with so profound and mysterious an element may have
had on his conduct in the world of men.  Better than many documents as an
aid to our understanding of him would be intimate association with the
sea, and prolonged contemplation of that face with which he was so
familiar.  We can never know the heart of it, but we can at least look
upon the face, turned from us though it is, upon which he looked.  Cloud
shadows following a shimmer of sunlit ripples; lines and runes traced on
the surface of a blank calm; salt laughter of purple furrows with the
foam whipping off them; tides and eddies, whirls, overfalls, ripples,
breakers, seas mountains high-they are but movements and changing
expressions on an eternal countenance that once held his gaze and wonder,
as it will always hold the gaze and wonder of those who follow the sea.

So much of the man Christopher Columbus, who once was and no longer is;
perished, to the last bone and fibre of him, off the face of the earth,
and living now only by virtue of such truth as there was in him; who once
manfully, according to the light that he had, bore Christ on his
shoulders across stormy seas, and found him often, in that dim light, a
heavy and troublesome burden; who dropped light and burden together on
the shores of his discovery, and set going in that place of peace such a
conflagration as mankind is not likely to see again for many a
generation, if indeed ever again, in this much-tortured world, such
ancient peace find place.


A man standing on the sea-shore
Absent for a little time, and his organisation went to pieces
All days, however hard, have an evening, and all journeys an end
Amerigo Vespucci
And every one goes naked and unashamed
At last extricate himself from the theological stupor
Attempts that have been made to glorify him socially
Bede, in the eighth century, established it finally (sphericity)
Began to offer bargains to the Almighty
Believed that the Spaniards came from heaven
Biography which obscures the truth with legends and pretences
Cannibal epicures did not care for the flesh of women and boys
Christian era denied the theory of the roundness of the earth
Columbus, calling for an egg, laid a wager
Columbus never once mentions his wife
Columbus’s habit of being untruthful in regard to his own past
Cooling off in his enthusiasm as the pastime became a task
Desire to get a great deal of money without working for it
Diminishing object to the wet eyes of his mother, sailed away
Dogs wagged their tails, but that never barked
Establishment of ten footmen and twenty other servants
Exchanging the natives for cattle
First known discovery of tobacco by Europeans
First organised transaction of slavery on the part of Columbus
Freed by force and with guns
Having issued three Bulls in twenty-four hours, he desisted
He had a way of rising above petty indignities
He was a great stickler for the observances of religion
Hearts quick to burn, quick to forget
Heretics were being burned every year by the Grand Inquisitor
High time, indeed, that they should be taught to wear clothing
Idea of importing black African labour to the New World
Ideas to him were of more value than facts
If there were no results, there would be no rewards
Inclined to be pompous
Irving: so inaccurate, so untrue to life, and so profoundly dull
Islands in that sea had their greatest length east and west
Juan Ponce de Leon, the discoverer of Florida
Learn the blessings of Christianity under the whip
Lives happily in our dreams, as blank as sunshine
Logic is irresistible if you only grant the first little step
Loose way in which the term India was applied in the Middle Ages
Man with a Grievance
Man of single rather than manifold ideas
More than a touch of crafty and elaborate dissimulation
Nautical phrase “make it so.”
Never to deal with subordinates
No more troubled by any wonder, sleeps at last
No Spanish women accompanied it (2d expedition)
Nothing so ludicrous as an Idea to those who do not share it
Only confirmative evidence remained
Patience which holds men back from theorising
Presence of the owner makes the horse fat
Professors of Christ brought not peace, but a sword
Religion has in our days fallen into decay
Saw potatoes also, although they did not know what they were
Sea of Darkness
Seeking to hire the protection of the Virgin
She must either sin or be celibate
Shifts and deceits that he practised
Spaniards sometimes hanged thirteen of them in a row
Spaniards undertook to teach the heathen the Christian religion
St. Chrysostom opposed the theory of the earth’s roundness
Stayed till night to eat their sop for fear of seeing (weevils)
Stuffed so full indeed that eyes and ears are closed
Tasks that are the common heritage of all small boys
Terror and amazement; they had never seen horses before
The cross and the sword, the whip-lash and the Gospel
The great thing in those days was to discover something
The missionary walked beside the slave-driver
The terrified seamen making vows to the Virgin
Theologians, however, proved equal to the occasion
There is deception and untruth somewhere
They saw the past in the light of the present
Took himself and the world very seriously
Vague longing and unrest that is the life-force of the world
When the pot boils the scum rises to the surface
Who never could meet any trouble without grumbling

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